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Fighting autism on the field

Hewlett-based group has collected nearly $25,000 in two years

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When Hewlett High School senior Jeremy Tarica began “Bulldogs Goals 4 Autism & Bulldogs Saves 4 Autism” this time last year, he couldn’t have imagined how many of his classmates and lacrosse teammates would join him in the effort to raise money to battle the condition.

Tarica first shared his idea with his teammates and coaches, then expanded it to the entire Hewlett-Woodmere community. “It’s definitely gotten a lot bigger,” he said. “I’m thankful that so many non-lacrosse players are involved now, too.”

Tarica was inspired by Ascent Youth Alliance to Battle Autism, an organization that raises awareness and funding for autism and athletics, which was started by Larry Haber, a longtime friend of Tarica’s father, and Haber’s three sons, Kyle, Sean and Ryan.

Their brother Conor was diagnosed with autism on his second birthday, in 2001, and Ascent Youth Alliance was formed shortly afterward. Kyle Haber, now a junior at Syosset High School, began Goals 4 Autism in conjunction with his lacrosse team last year. It is an opportunity for students to make a difference and help autistic children. “Our mission is to promote awareness, tolerance and acceptance for kids with autism,” Kyle said, “while raising money to help fund local autism programs which help further the education and social skills of these kids.”

On March 31, Tarica and the Hewlett High lacrosse squad will face off against Haber and his Syosset High teammates under the lights at the Hewlett fields in an autism fundraiser. “I expect that it will be a good, competitive game,” Tarica said, “and it’s nice that both the [Syosset] Braves and [Hewlett] Bulldogs are on the same team at the end of the day because we’re both fighting to promote awareness for autism.”

By game time, Tarica hopes to present Haber, his family and the Ascent Youth Alliance to Battle Autism a check for $6,000, to be distributed among autism programs across Long Island. In the past 13 months, Bulldogs Goals 4 Autism & Bulldogs Saves 4 Autism has raised almost $25,000 through donations and by selling T-shirts promoting the organization.

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