LIFE OF SERVICE: It was early in Brookline resident Michael S. Dukakis’s political career when he was invited to tour a local school for autistic children. Nearly 50 years later, the former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee still gets emotional when remembering the scene.
“There were maybe 75 kids, many of them half-naked and sitting in excrement on the concrete floor, just rocking back and forth, with two attendants watching them,” he recalled. “That’s the way we dealt with these kids in 1965, and there were thousands of them in these institutions. So when Vinnie asked me to help, it wasn’t difficult to say yes.”
Dukakis is credited with instituting the initiatives that provided Vincent Strully Jr. with the seed money and grant to found the New England Center for Children in 1975. Based in Southborough, the organization provides education, research, and technology to children on the autism spectrum worldwide, as well as their caregivers and providers.
Dukakis remained involved with center after leaving office, as cochairman of two capital funding campaigns and as a board member since 2007. His wife, Kitty Dukakis, joined the advisory council in 2006.
In honor of Dukakis’s 80th birthday on Nov. 3, he is forgoing his usual low-key family celebration for a fund-raiser benefiting NECC on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, 415 Summer St.
The NECC is in the public phase of a $10 million fund-raising campaign to renovate 10,000 square feet of the existing building and build a 30,000-square-foot research institute. Dan Rea of WBZ NewsRadio will serve as host, and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News will deliver the keynote address.
Dukakis said it has been gratifying to observe the center’s evolution into a renowned facility with worldwide impact. Still, he notes, the need for its services remains “almost infinite.”
“Being able to touch lives in a positive way is what life is all about, as far as I’m concerned,” Dukakis said. “I look back on the progress, the incredible gains we’ve made, and this is certainly one of them. That’s what you can do in this business.”
ONE STEP AT A TIME: Ashland resident Erica Glovasky accepted that everyone thought she was crazy for suspecting she had a brain tumor at age 37. However, she persisted in requesting medical tests for her severe headaches, nausea, sensitivity to common smells, and out-of-body sensations that ultimately proved the diagnosis on Aug. 10, 2010.
Glovasky underwent a craniotomy the following month to remove the lemon-size, benign meningioma attached to her right optic nerve. On Oct. 6, she celebrated her three-year anniversary being tumor-free by joining an estimated 3,000 participants in the Boston Brain Tumor Walk.
Donations are being accepted through Thursday by the Newton-based National Brain Tumor Society, which has already raised more than $608,000 through the walk to fund research, advocate for government programs and policies, and increase awareness of the disease. According to the organization, nearly 70,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year alone.
Glovasky said the chilly and rainy conditions did not diminish her enthusiasm during the walk. Her Three Fine Limes team has raised $5,920.
“It was an emotional day, but it was a good day, all for a good cause,” she said. “I’m already planning for next year.”
BREATHING EASIER: Kristen Brown of Brookline lovingly remembers her mother, Janet Brown, as a dedicated pre-school teacher, Girl Scout leader, and animal rescue farm volunteer, and her best friend.
When her mother was diagnosed with metastatic stage IV non-small cell lung cancer the day after Christmas in 2006, Brown committed to fighting alongside her to raise awareness and funds for research and advocacy.
On Saturday, she will participate as a member of Team Brown in the LUNGevity Foundation’s eighth annual Breathe Deep Boston 5K Walk at 11 a.m. in South Boston. A member of the planning committee, Brown additionally volunteered the last two years as the food and beverages subcommittee chairwoman and helped solicit in-kind donations.
Brown said this year’s event will be difficult without her mother, who succumbed to the illness last month at age 54. Janet Brown, a non-smoker, completed the first mile of last year’s walk alongside her friends and family, and was also involved in the LUNGevity Foundation’s online support community and annual summit.
Brown said that her mother wanted other survivors to draw strength from her 6½-year battle. Lung cancer is the leading case of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the American Lung Association, with only 16 percent living five years past diagnosis.
“It’s important to know that anyone can get lung cancer,” Brown said. “And regardless of whether they smoked or not, no one should have to deal with it.”
Brown said committee members, volunteers, and walkers are still needed for the event, with registration beginning at 10 a.m. at the DCR Mother’s Rest Area at Carson Beach. For more information, call 312-407-6100 or visit lungevity.org/boston.
PR 101: Lexington residents Rick Beyer, a best-selling author and award-winning filmmaker, and his wife, public relations executive and radio host Marilyn Rea Beyer, are conducting a public relations and crowd-funding workshop Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Lexington Depot, 13 Depot Square.
Designed for independent artists and small nonprofits , “Gotta Get the Word Out!” covers branding, press releases, media outreach, social media, and launching a Kickstarter campaign.
Rick Beyer has made documentaries for PBS, History Channel, A&E, and National Geographic. A former journalist and ad executive, he is also author of the Greatest Stories Never Told series of history books.
Marilyn Rea Beyer is public relations director at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown and host of a daily radio show on WUMB-FM, where she previously handled public relations and marketing.
The $110 fee includes lunch. For more information, visit gottagetthewordout.brownpapertickets.com.