The Pleasanton River Park Pavilion was filled with the sound of laughter and music on Saturday, April 17, as families joined together for Autism Awareness Day.
The beautiful celebration required much planning and was organized by Laura Calvert, founder of the Peace for the Pieces Social Group and her team, Toni Miranda and Wendy Saunders.
Peace for the Pieces is designed for chil- dren and teens with special needs and their families. The group organizes various events, outings and get-togethers throughout the year that help foster a sense of belonging in special-needs children.
The event on April 17 led with a tree-planting ceremony in memory of the late Desiree Anger, who passed away in 2020. Her mother Vanessa Anger shared some powerful words to the crowd about how her faith carries her.
“Desiree had a really hard life and anyone who has a child with autism or special needs knows that there is a cross that our children carry,” said Vanessa. “There is a burden that they are given when they walk this earth as special needs kids. As parents, we also bear that cross. We are witnesses to the hardships as they try to find their way and fit in with kids who are not always accepting of who they are.”
Vanessa added that her daughter was an amazing, strong person who was a testament to all that is good and pure in the world. When she passed away, a strong presence of the Holy Spirit and the strong fragrance of flowers filled their home, which comforted her.
“One day we will all return home and that’s where my daughter is,” said Vanessa. “My Desiree is home- no more disabled. No more special needs. My daughter is a warrior in heaven.”
She reminded the families not to take anything for granted and that they have all been gifted with their children.
The family and Pleasanton High School JROTC students assisted with the planting of the redbud tree, as Desiree loved but- terflies. Laura Calvert read the plaque’s inscription, “In loving memory, Desiree Anger, 1997-2020. Now she flies with the butterflies.”
The Autism Walk followed the ceremony, with participants gathering at the pavilion to walk under the colorful, balloon arch. Then they walked around the park, taking in the scenery and pleasant weather.
Other activities that day included presentations by the Pleasanton Fire Department and children’s games. Those attending could color in chalked out puzzle pieces drawn on the pavilion floor, sponsored by local businesses and individuals. There was also a silent auction with beautiful puzzle pieces crafted by PHS woodworking students. The pieces were painted by PHS students and local artists.
Peace for the Pieces Tshirts are still available for sale, $10 each by calling 830-570-2782.
“We were happy with the turn out. On behalf of the group, we would have liked to have seen maybe the city officials and people in the educational field come and support these kids,” said Laura Calvert. “Next year will consist of walk teams to encourage families and groups in the community to be more involved. It was a great turn out for Pleasanton’s first Autism Awareness Event.”
She added, “We would like to thank Xenia Katcsmorak for always stepping up to serve as a volunteer and donates so much! Also would like to extend our gratitude to the Pleasanton High JROTC and to a few of the honor students who came out to help. Thanks to all our sponsors and everyone who bid on the puzzle pieces. It was so successful.”