Inaugural expo to raise awareness

The event title may be long, but the hope is to the point: raise awareness and acceptance in the community.

Open your mind and head to Cherry Hill High School East on Sunday, Oct. 21, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Anti-Bullying Day and Just For You Expo in Support of Special Needs.

The school, located at 1750 Kresson Road, is hosting the event presented by Temple Emanuel and Big Splash Productions.

According to www.StopBullying.gov, a website operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, youth with special needs are at an increased risk of being bullied.

“Any number of factors, physical vulnerability, social skill challenges, or intolerant environments, may increase the risk,” the website reads.

The expo will be free, non-denominational and open to the community.

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the inaugural expo, according to event co-chair Deb Berger.

There will be a variety of workshops to attend, said Berger, including sessions on planning for care for those with special needs after their parents or caretakers are no longer able to take care of them, assistive technology in the special needs community and bullying in the pre-school age child.

Siblings of those with special needs will have a workshop geared toward them, a group Berger called an often “forgotten population.”

“There’s various workshops along those lines,” she said.

The single best technological advancement thus far has been the iPad, she said.

“It can be used for people who can’t speak,” Berger said. “It helps with eye-hand coordination. It’s educational.”

Attendees at the high school will be eligible to win one of the two iPads being given away at the expo.

The iPads will not be the only electronics at the expo.

A Battle of the Songs, similar to a Battle of the Bands competition, will take place.

“In order to participate, you have to write and perform an anti-bullying song,” said Berger.

The winner will receive a Kindle Fire.

A Big Splash Productions musical teeming with ideas of acceptance, “Blue Lou and the Bullyfish,” will have two performances, one at 10 a.m. and another at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s rather exciting,” said Berger.

Dr. Richard Selznick of the Children’s Regional Hospital of Cooper University will be the event’s keynote speaker.

Selznick will be discussing bullying and the special needs child in his address.

To kick off the day, Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn will read a proclamation on “real world solutions,” according to a statement.

Also on the roster are principal sponsors and philanthropists Lewis and Marjorie Katz, Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt and principal Andrew Bell of H.B. Wilson School in Camden.

According to a release, Bell’s “fourth-grade students collaborated to recite new lyrics to a popular beat about resisting bullies.”

Bancroft School and the Cherry Hill Board of Education have provided support for the expo, raising awareness for the day by sending out flyers to students.

The Anti-Defamation League will be on hand, said Berger, to assist in “how to identify bullying, how to not be a bully (and) what to do if you’re bullied.”

Temple Emanuel has been involved with the league in a program called No Place For Hate, and will become the first religious institution in the tri-state area to be designed as a No Place For Hate school once three projects are completed, said Berger.

As the event date nears, she said, many in the community are jumping on the bandwagon to lend their support.

More information

Contact Deb Berger at (609) 314-4343 or SpecialNeeds@TempleEmanuel.org for more information on workshops, sponsorships and the chance to exhibit.

To enter into the Battle of the Songs competition, email BigSplashProductions5@gmail.com.

View more information on the expo by visiting www.templeemanuel.org/expo.php.