Cure Autism Now | Autism Fund raising sends local trio to Hollywood premiere | July 29, 1997

[Note: Shared for #AutisticHistory archive purposes. This is NOT An Autistic Ally.]

July 29th, 1997

Autism Fund raising sends local trio to Hollwood premiere

By Sally Friedman Special to the BCT

It was the ultimate fantasy–a trip to Hollywood for the premiere of one of the hottest new films of the year, and a post-premiere party with Tinseltown’s elite.

And for three Burlington County women that fantasy turned into a reality last week when they jetted off to the opening of “Air Force One”, the Columbia pictures film starring Harrison Ford about the hijacking of the American President’s plane.

This was, however, more than a premiere for Catherine Medovich of Evesham, and Sherri Tuso and Maureen Monihan, both of Moorestown. The trio were the guests of the films’s producers because of their joint activism to promote research into autism, a condition that has affected each local family.

Last month, the local support organization PACT — “Parents of Aytistic Children Together”– raised $35,000 through a golf outing at Moorestown’s Laurel Creek Country Club. The proceeds of the event were earmarked for a national organization called CAN, which stands for Cure Autism Now.

“It was through our work on the golf outing that we connected with Marciarose Shestack of Philadelphia, who became our honorary chairperson,” said Medovich, president of the local group PACT. “Marciarose is the mother of Jonathan Shestack, one of the producers of “Air Force One”, and also the founder of CAN.”

Jonathan Shestack, the father of Dov, an autistic child, is internationally recognized for his efforts promoting research on autism, the condition that causes severe language and cognition impairments in children.

When the local women learned that proceeds from the opening night gala for “Air Force One” were earmarked for CAN, they offered their help and support. “We wanted to go out and work, do anything that was needed,” explained Medovich, whose son Nicholas, 6, has been diagnosed with autism.

Instead, the women were stuned be invited to the gala opening as guests of the film’s producers. The invitation also gave them the opportunity to present the organization with the $35,000 check from their local outing. And last Monday night, three mothers who are not accustomed to the luxury of Hollywood, and who spend most of their time seeing to the care of their special-needs children, stepped onto a red carpet at the Cineplex Odeon Century Plaza Cinemas along with such luminaries as Arnold Schwartzenegger and Maria Shriver, Martin Landau and, of course, Harrison Ford.

“We had all gotten new dresses, done our hair, and let ourselves get caught up in the glamour of the evening,” said Medovich. For Terri Tuso, whose son is also named Nicholas and is also 6, all the frantic arrangements to schedule child care were worth it for the moment when “I was standing 2 feet away from Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwartzenegger!”

Tuso had to pinch herself and ask “What am I doing here?” She was particularly pleased that the gala premiere and the elaborate party that followed raised $250,000 for CAN.

Maureen Monihan, a mother of three chilldren, two of whom have been diagnosed as autistic, loved the star-gazing and lavishness of the Hollywood scene, but was particularly gratified to meet Jonathan Shestack and his wife, Portia.

“It was just incredible to think that they started CAN during the same period when Jonathan was working on the film,” saisd Monihan, who arranged rotating shifts of baby sitters so that she could have the premiere experience. The three mothers are extremely grateful to Shestack for raising the public’s consciousness about a condition that is estimated to affect more than 400,000 American families, and to occur in as many as 2 out of every 1,000 children.

Despite the whirlwind nature of the trip — they were away from home only one night — they wouldn’t have missed it for anything. “This was definitely, absoloutely one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences,” said Catherine Medovich. “It’s taken us days just to come back down to earth.”

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