FCSN 25th Anniversary Special : Q&A With the Co-Founders PART 4

What is your involvement at FCSN and what are some of your memorable stories?

by: Shiow-Luan Chen, Tsai-Wei Wu, Linmei & James Chiao, Anna & Albert Wang

A group of FCSN parents formed Peralta Dreams LLC in order to acquire a vacant land in Fremont (2000).

Shiow-Luan: I’ve been a special education consultant providing services to FCSN members since its inception.. Many parents struggle with unknown factors of disabilities. With my experiences and specialties, I provide detailed analysis and insights of their children’s strengths and difficulties, then share the specially designed methods and techniques with the parents to teach their children at home and in the communities! There have been many happy as well as sad stories throughout the years. One girl who was on wheelchair needed an one-on-one aide amongst other services, Mom’s English was not good enough to make her daughter’s needs heard. After in-home consultations and many IEP meetings with the school, and of course with frustrations and tears, we have be able to get the services the family needed! What can this family give in return? Nothing more but carrying the torch to help others!

Tsai-Wei: My family is one of the 10 FCSN founding families.  I was FCSN’s president in 1997 and held the position  from 2007 to 2013.  I have a son with autism, he was 6 in 1996, you may say my family has been involved and growing with FCSN since day1, and we will keep going forward with FCSN.

The most memorable story for me is the story of FCSN founding program, Bi-weekly Regular Family Gathering. FCSN has set a basic principle for its program design/development from the very beginning, which is Family oriented and Family involvement. Simply put, in design, all programs have to benefit  both the parents and the kids with special needs. In operation, the parents have to come forward and carry out their obligations and shared duties. We emphasize that parents and kids should work together, play together, and have fun together. 

FCSN Bi-weekly Regular Family Gathering has been carrying this spirit ever since. In every Gathering event, the program starts with parents and kids activities in a parallel session:  Parents are attending educational programs such as special topic seminars, workshops, and kids are going to their lesson, dancing, or singing classes.  After the first two educational hours, all families have a nice, warm, and delicious dinner together.  The 3rd hour session is designed for the parents and kids to play together, such as fun game playing or dancing.

The Bi-weekly Regular Family Gathering acts like a core, at the beginning, the program cultivates an environment for the families with or without special needs kids.  Through the program interaction, FCSN family members get to know each other, make friends, and share stories.  The parents realize that so many families are alike, at the end, they know they are not that special, not that misfortunate, and most importantly, they understand they are not alone in the community, there are so many things worth doing to improve their loved ones’ future, enrich their own life, and they all deserve to be happy. 

Albert: One of the founding families.  Served as President and Chair for many years.  Guided the purchase and construction of the two center properties.  Advocated for our cause at local, state and federal government levels.  

When FCSN grew faster than expected and we began to look for a permanent facility, my developer friend talked to me about the parcel where current FCSN HQ sits, about developing it into a medical office building.  When he heard about our needs, he graciously offered for us to take over the option on this land, at the price of a year ago, which was substantially lower.  It was a godsend as it fronts a major street but backs onto a residential area, allowing us to build our dream village of center in front and apartment in the back (owned by parents).  It’s also a miracle that we were able to put together enough capital to purchase the land in about a week’s time.  It just so happened I have been involved in local elections in Fremont for a decade before and it helped to get support from city leaders for zoning change to build our Dream Project.  Our project captured the attention of ethnic media and our very first gala drew 800 guests and raised a quarter of a million dollars.  Everything just fell perfectly in place like a miracle!!  Looking back it was an amazing feat. But at the time we just felt it was something we must do, without thinking through the potential pitfalls and whether we could raise the money or had the expertise to make it happen.  

Diagram, engineering drawing

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Architect’s conception of our Fremont Center and the Dream Project (2001)

Anna: One of our family’s greatest blessings is to be part of FCSN. We have been involved since Day 1. We have developed outreach programs, provided support and training, and are strong advocates for children with special needs and their families. We have also founded the Special Needs Talent Showcase event, music camps, drama camps, sports camps, technology and science camps to discover and develop our children’s talent and abilities.  We have since discovered more than 50 talented artists and performing artists. One of the most memorable stories was with my son, Lawrence, who was discovered to have savant-like musical talent at age 19 at our own music camp.  It was really a miracle since Lawrence had always covered his ear when he was around music. We misread his gesture as being fearful of music but in actuality he was experiencing sensory overload and used his hands to filter out the loudness of the music.

To help FCSN financially, I have written and been awarded grant funding to develop and implement innovative programs.  I have also established great community and governmental relationships where FCSN is now recognized by California State Department of Developmental Services as one the four best organizations and service providers in the special needs community.  

Jim: Besides being one of the founding families. During the founding year, I was mainly involved in drafting FCSN bylaws and formalizing its mission statement. Later, I participated in the building of the SB Center and the creation of the coffee shop. I have served as FCSN president/co-president for 5 terms, and this year, I am serving as its co-chairman.

I remember two big moments: First. In April 1996, when 25 families gathered at my home, we all agreed to form a group to help and support special needs children and their families. It was a very moving moment when so many people, meeting for the first time, committed to the same goal.  Before the end of the year, FCSN was born. The second moment was during the Dream Project: In 2001, when Albert learned about this piece of land for sale in Fremont. The three Dream Committee members Albert, Linmei, and Peter Hsia went down there to take a look. When they decided to pursue the property, that was the moment the Dream Project became a reality. That decision sent a chill down my spine, I said to myself, “FCSN has no money in the bank, I have no idea how we are going to pull this off.”

Linmei: I was FCSN’s founding President/Chairperson, I was once the coordinator of Dream Project, the Director of Supportive Living Service, the director of Adult Day Program, and now serve as the director of Volunteer Support. One of my memorable stories is the following:

When I started the “FCSN Booth” that sells toys and gifts at Cupertino old “World Journal Plaza”, the students at FCSN Booth took turns to tend the business. I still remember how proud they were showing toys to the customers. Near lunch time, I took them to other booths in the Plaza to buy lunch and chat with fellow merchants in the Plaza. It was very touching to see our students so integrated with the community and had so much fun.

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