Written by Tao Wang, FCSN Voices Reporter
On November 5, 2022, Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN) held the “Expand Our Dream” Fundraising Gala, and over 400 guests, supporters and volunteers attended the event at the wonderful Pearl Bay Restaurant in Fremont.
Event Co-Chair Peter Chan enthusiastically stated that this is the first time since the onset of the COVID pandemic that FCSN hosted the gala fundraising event in person. The organizing committee initially planned for 350 attendees, but the gala tickets were quickly sold out a month before the event. The committee then added more seats to accommodate the expected 425 attendees. Peter Chan was very excited to see the active participation. Event Co-Chair Jacqueline Yu also welcomed all of the guests, indicating that FCSN’s dream is to enable better life for more children with special needs and their families, and FCSN’s dream will not be a reality without generous donations.
The president of FCSN, CK Lee, informed the audience of the drastic increase of number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) over the years. According to reports from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, about 1 in 150 children was identified with ASD in 2002. By 2018, 1 in 44 children had ASD. CK Lee emphasized the urgent need for FCSN to expand its space and provide care for more children/adults with special needs. He also pointed out that in the last 26 years, FCSN has been spending every donated dollar on helping children with special needs and their families.
Since its formation in 1996 as a non-profit organization, FCSN has established two centers: one in Fremont and one in San Jose. These centers have served over 600 children/adults with special needs and their families. With the increasing needs from children/adults with developmental disabilities, and over 300 anxious families on a waiting list to enroll their loved ones in FSCN programs, FCSN has been on its mission to build a new center in Fremont. After relentless effort and long searches, FSCN successfully acquired the 18,000 square feet Osgood property in the Cameron Hills neighborhood of Fremont last summer. FCSN Board Co-Chair, Co-Founder, and Project Lead James Chiao updated event attendees on the progress of the renovation and shared the floor plan of the Osgood Center. The funds raised through this event will provide crucial resources for the renovation of the Osgood Center which will become FCSN’s future headquarters.
This summer, FCSN set an ambitious goal to renovate and open the Osgood center within two years; however, the cost of construction has skyrocketed during the past year and is now expected to be around $3-4M. FCSN has started a massive campaign to raise $1.5M over 3 years to help with the renovation project. Many numbered paddles were raised when MC Matt Keller and Fundraising Chair Limin Hu asked for generous donors to pledge various amounts in the range of $1000 to $25,000. With a massive TV screen, spanning the width of the stage, the audience watched videos of how FCSN had touched the lives of disabled young people through its programs and activities. That warm feeling was echoed by many of the families in the audience. It is truly priceless to hear about children with developmental disabilities expressing the love they feel when they come to FSCN, and the families are happy to see that their children have their lives enriched at FCSN.
In a brief interview, Yee-Yeen Wang, FCSN Board Co-Chair, indicated that FCSN is a family-driven organization. The main goal for the FCSN management team has always been to provide programs that satisfy FCSN members’ needs. He said there are multiple reasons to expand FCSN. For example, more children with ASD have been growing into adulthood and more programs are needed to address their needs; at the same time, children newly diagnosed with ASD are coming in. Therefore, the need to care for individuals with ASD continues to expand. Parents having children with special needs cannot single-handedly address the multitude of issues which arise every day, rather they need help from the community, and organizations such as FCSN. With added resources, FCSN could provide more specialized programs. For example, ASD children with high needs and ASD children with high functions have very different needs. More available resource will enable FCSN to provide different programs to these two groups of children. Yee-Yeen emphasized that FCSN is not only a service provider, but also a platform that gathers resources and channels those resources to families with special needs.
At the gala, our talented “musicians” Chiling Wu and Dream Achievers Band – Lawrence, Alice, and Greg — played beautiful music and songs that clearly touched many hearts in the audience. The fund-raising gala proceeded with delicious food, wonderful music, generous donations from our guests and families, and above all the friendship which bound all to the core mission of helping children/adults with special needs.
Anna Wang, co-founder of FCSN and currently Vice President of Local Programs and Community Relations, along with Gerrye Wong, a dedicated volunteer & CHCP co-founder, encouraged the audience to donate. On the big screen, the names of donors were shown alongside a large virtual thermometer indicating the growing donated amounts. Thanks to many generous hearts, the fundraising drive had raised over $400,000 by the event night. Anna Wang thanked attendees and families for their generosity and support and for being a huge part of Expanding Our Dream.
Many FCSN’s supporters attended the event including but not limited to Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, Alameda County Board of Supervisors Representative Kathy Kimberlin, and a representative from Congressman Ro Khana’s office. They presented FCSN with commendations along with Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt, TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) Director Lai, Regional Center of the East Bay Executive Director Lisa Kleinbub, San Andreas Regional Center Executive Director Javier Zaldivar, and many City Council members, School Board members, and Presidents of Community Organizations. They applauded FCSN for organizing the 2022 Fundraising Gala and for its vital work supporting children/adults with special needs and their families.
Go, FCSN, expand our dream!