Connor Skalitzky was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. Now, as a high school freshman, the Crofton resident is an honor roll student and gifted musician. And he no longer needs special education services, in large part thanks to Bello Machre, an Anne Arundel County nonprofit that supports people with developmental disabilities.
The family, in return, helps Bello Machre by participating in the Every Step Counts fundraiser scheduled for June 11.
Over the years, Bello Machre has been an invaluable resource to the Skalitzky family. The Glen Burnie organization has helped them cover treatments they wouldn’t have been able to afford, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills therapy, gymnastics lessons, specialized swim lessons and even Chinese acupressure, Lori Skalitzky explains.
“We visited doctors and tried nontraditional treatments not covered by our health insurance in our quest to bring our son out of the shell of autism, and Bello Machre helped us cover these extra costs,” she says. “Considering he was basically nonverbal at age 2 … he has come a very, very long way.”
The family has also been a huge support to Bello Machre, raising over $15,000 for the organization since 2008 — mainly by participating in “Every Step Counts” which is an annual walk, bike and 5K run. One of the unique things about this fundraiser is that participating families get to keep half of the funds they raise for services needed.
“I don’t know any other fundraising program that gives back directly,” says Tracy Lynott, development director for Bello Machre.
In 2014, the Skalitzkys raised over $3,700 for Bello Machre, which meant $1,800 went directly toward services for Connor.
“We believe that family and friends like the fact that, while they are helping a very worthy cause, they are also having a direct impact on Connor and his success,” Lori says.
The family plans to take part in the fundraiser again this year. Even though their needs have changed, they recognize that there are many families in the area that need help.
“We have been blessed that, through Bello Machre’s help, Connor has come as far as he has, but we personally know many families who have not had the kinds of success we have,” Lori says. “’Every Step Counts’ is a fun, easy way to help an amazing, worthy, local organization continue to fund much-needed services for deserving families.”
Bello Machre serves not only children — by covering costs of treatments and therapies not covered by insurance — it also provides housing and other services for adults with disabilities.
This year’s Every Step Counts fundraiser will take place 7:30 a.m.-noon at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold. Along with the 5K, bike ride and walk, there will be food, music, prizes, face painting, a bounce house and more. For details and to register, visit Bello Machre’s website, bellomachre.org/events/every-step-counts.
By Betsy Stein