Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Miss New Jersey increases awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorder

From day one, Erica Lynn Scanlon's primary goal for entering the Miss New Jersey and Miss America pageants was to increase public awareness of autism and the need for services.
"I have appreciated the opportunity to bring the message of autism awareness to a much wider audience," Scanlon noted in a statement.
Prior to being crowned Miss New Jersey, the Pitman native -- whose 21-year-old sister Jessie has autism -- had organized a fundraiser for the New Jersey Center for Outreach & Services for the Autism Community. As a spokeswoman for the organization, Scanlon's platform and audience grew when she was crowned Miss New Jersey.

A year later, her efforts are being recognized by the state Senate and General Assembly in the form of a joint resolution that will be presented to Scanlon on Thursday. The resolution is sponsored by fourth district Sen. Fred Madden and Assemblymen David Mayer and Robert Smith.
"As Miss New Jersey, Erica served as an outstanding representative of her hometown of Pitman," Mayer said. "Her work on behalf of thousands of New Jerseyans living with autism shows us the power of one person with a cause, about which she is passionate, to raise our collective consciousness."
Paul Potito, executive director of autism outreach group, said Scanlon was able to open doors and reach new audiences for the organization.
"She took the message and clearly presented it across the state for a full year -- the needs for people with autism and their families," said Potito. "She's been consistent in her message. She comes across as really caring about people, beyond just her sister, who have autism."
Scanlon will serve this summer as the assistant director of Main Stage Center for the Arts in Blackwood.
Though her reign as Miss New Jersey has come to end, Scanlon plans to continue her efforts in promoting autism advocacy.
"I will be Jessie's sister and advocate for a lifetime," Scanlon noted.