By Tara Vocino
Those who either fall under the autistic spectrum disorder or have close family with autism commented during Saturday’s Row Row Row In Revere at the Marina at the Wharf Restaurant to benefit autism awareness.
Olivia Freni, 16, of Revere, who is a stand-out for singing the National Anthem at the RHS sporting events and Boston Bruins’ games, and her brother, Ricky, Jr., both are high-functioning. She commented on their challenges.
“He loves me, and I love him,” Olivia said. “We both can be temperamental at times. There’s stuff that I want to go away, like I’m sensitive to loud noises when sleeping. I’m in both special education and mainstream classes at Revere High School.”
Olivia said she made friends, and although she’s not the most popular girl at school, even the jocks know her. “I love making friends and giving hugs,” Olivia said.
She plans to major in professional songwriting at Berklee College of Music.
Peabody resident Pat Todisco has a nonverbal grandson, Bobby, 4, who said he makes new strides every day. Todisco sat in on the interview with Olivia, tearing up. He called Olivia “an inspiration and important person in the world,” who brings “new hope.”
“This event means so much to families, not just mine,” Todisco said. “This event covers programs that aren’t covered by insurance. For instance, it pays $2,220 for six sessions of horseback riding for Bobby. The motion of Harry, the horse, causes him to do something verbally and to use sign-language.”
Organizer Stacey Livote said 30 teams will raise money to go toward therapy that isn’t covered by insurance, and it will go directly to families. “It will also benefit building a sensory integration gym at Beachmont Elementary School, where half of the district students are diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder,” Livote said.
Canoers paddled from the Point of Pines to the Pines River and back, about two and a half miles, to raise money for autism.
Slugged Wild Irish Rowers, Rick Foley of Revere and Kevin O’Malley of Revere, placed first with a time of 42:48. And Mary and Cheryl, Mary Jones and Cheryl Crawford, placed second behind them at 45:45.
“It was important to conserve energy, as we had to paddle against the current,” O’Malley said. “We had to keep the same pace the whole time so that we didn’t fall over.”
Crawford compared the race to lifting weights for an hour. They said the competition was fierce. “Although we were exhausted, another female team was behind us, and I kept telling Cheryl that they were catching up,” Jones said. “The more I told her that, the harder she rowed.”
Over on the dance floor, Revere resident Michele Misano-Harris traveled back in time when she and her daughter, Olivia, 11, were dancing to Vinyl Groove, a disco band that played ’70s music. “The songs are upbeat,” Misiano-Harris said. “I grew up with the songs, and her voice is incredible. It makes me feel young again.”
Misiano-Harris said Jacob’s Ladder used to host the event, but now that the Marina hosts it, it’s more organized with added raffles, larger and more fun.
By the raffle table, Daveen Arrigo, wife of Mayor Brian Arrigo, was vying to win a $50 Marina raffle or any of the other 30 prizes. “The local restaurants give us a good excuse to get out and enjoy food that our city has to offer,” Arrigo said. “Thanks to local restaurants for supporting this great cause.”