Group presents mini grant to family


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Neighbors | Submitted.The Mike Hull Memorial Family Mini Grant Committee presented their annual award in the form on a mini trampoline to the Hughes family in Boardman.

The Autism Society of Mahoning Valley announced the presentation of this year’s Mike Hull Memorial Family Mini Grant. The $500 award, in the form of a mini-trampoline, safety net and a variety of other holiday gifts for the children, was presented to Jimmy Hughes in a ceremony at the family’s Boardman home.

“My son Jimmy is so excited to have a new trampoline because he loves to bounce,” said Davida Hughes, the mother of the 3-year-old with autism spectrum disorder.

Experts believe this can be an effective therapy for ASD. In addition to offering her son an outlet to expel his energy, the jumping reduces anxiety and improves concentration.

“It’s amazing what kids on that spectrum can do on a trampoline that they might not have been able to without that sensory input,” Hughes said. “You see kids going from disengaged and non-communicative to making eye contact and being more aware of what’s going on. We are so grateful that he was selected to receive this.”

“It is a Christmas present for us to be able to help this young family,” said Melissa Kalaman, Chairperson of the Mini Grant Review Committee and sister of the memorial’s namesake. “Giving him the opportunity to engage more effectively could be life changing for him. That is exactly the kind of gift that my brother, Mike, would have been proud to be involved in.”

In 2014, Kalaman and her family initiated the effort with the Autism Society to create the Family Mini Grant with proceeds from the Annual Mike Hull Memorial Poker Run for Autism, which takes place every August.

This year, more than 60 motorcyclists took part in the two-county ride in honor of Mike Hull, a beloved husband, father, brother and grandfather with a cherished granddaughter on the autism spectrum. The all-day event featured an 80-mile motorcycle ride that visited six establishments in Mahoning and Columbiana Counties. It kicked off with a breakfast and bike blessing, and ended with a live concert and pasta dinner. Throughout the day, Strikers offered free bowling for any children or adults with special needs. Planning is underway for the next event in August 2016.

The Mike Hull Mini Grant Review Committee feels the family mini grants are an important way to support families affected by autism who struggle with costs of therapies and treatments year round. The group offers an open application period every November so that they can assist with needs around seasonal holidays.

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