Northeast Times

A knot-ty way to fight autism

At the Philly Soft Pret­zel Fact­ory on Ara­mingo Av­en­ue, throughout April — Na­tion­al Aut­ism Aware­ness Month — all pro­ceeds from the $1 rib­bon pret­zels will be donated to sup­port the cause.

A pret­zel from the Philly Soft Pret­zel Fact­ory is al­ways a treat.

Dur­ing April, however, if you swing by the Philly Soft Pret­zel Fact­ory at 3377 Ara­mingo Ave., you’ll not only get your­self a tasty snack, you’ll also do something sweet for those who suf­fer from aut­ism.

Aut­ism is a neuro­bi­o­lo­gic­al dis­order that, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­cently re­leased by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol, af­fects about one in 88 chil­dren.

April is Aut­ism Aware­ness Month, and at own­er Steve Miele’s pret­zel shop, the pro­ceeds from every pret­zel rib­bon sold this month will go to­ward or­gan­iz­a­tions that help chil­dren dia­gnosed with aut­ism.

Every Oc­to­ber, he said in an in­ter­view, the store sells pret­zels in the shape of rib­bons, in sup­port of breast can­cer aware­ness.

But, Miele has a neigh­bor who has aut­ist­ic chil­dren and, to help them, he sup­por­ted a be­ne­fit they held a few years back.

“I got in­volved with that, and then I got this idea,” he said.

Two em­ploy­ees in his store have chil­dren who have been dia­gnosed with aut­ism, he said, and Miele wanted to do more to sup­port pro­grams that help raise aware­ness of the de­vel­op­ment­al dis­order.

Two years ago he star­ted the idea, and con­tinu­ing this month, for $1 apiece, the store sells pret­zels in the shape of rib­bons and puts stick­ers on the wall for every pret­zel sold.

At the end of the month, all pro­ceeds from the pret­zels will go to or­gan­iz­a­tions that work with aut­ist­ic chil­dren, he said.

In past years, he said, he’s col­lec­ted more than $1,000 in the month, and he’s spread the dona­tions around to sev­er­al groups, in­clud­ing Aut­ism Speaks — the na­tion’s largest aut­ism ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tion.

“I real­ized just how many people this af­fects,” he said. “Even now, people will stop me on the street — people I nev­er met be­fore — just to thank us for do­ing this.”

As he walked around his shop, Miele poin­ted to the blue and white pa­pers that the store hangs up for every per­son who buys a pret­zel to sup­port aut­ism aware­ness.

Already a num­ber of the pa­pers line the wall.

“Last year, that whole win­dow was blue,” he said. “It’s kind of a neat thing.”

Em­ploy­ee Blanca To­var, who has an aut­ist­ic son, likes that her boss sup­ports ef­forts to raise aut­ism aware­ness.

“People don’t know what it is,” said To­var, whose 11-year-old son, Ameon, was dia­gnosed with aut­ism when he was 7.

To­var, who lives on Ara­mingo Av­en­ue, thinks if her son could com­mu­nic­ate his thoughts on aut­ism he’d say something like: “I have a hard way of ex­press­ing my­self and this is how I am do­ing that.”

Her son some­times will sit in an of­fice chair and spin for hours on end, she said. He’s ob­sessed with bugs — he even owns a tarantula — and when he smells something, he’s in­sist­ent on find­ing out where it’s com­ing from, no mat­ter what else is go­ing on.

“He’ll be ob­sess­ive. If he likes something, he needs to know everything about it…He’s a puzzle kid. He loves puzzles,” she said. “The big thing, I think, is pa­tience…you have to be will­ing to get in­to their life.”

To­var said Miele is very un­der­stand­ing about her son’s dis­order and he’s even al­lowed her to leave early to take care of her son.

“I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t work­ing here,” she said. “He really un­der­stands… When we donated the money last year, I was cry­ing. No one cares about the puzzle kids. But he un­der­stands.”  ••

Star man­aging ed­it­or Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

Do the twist …

The Phil­adelphia Soft Pret­zel Fact­ory, at 3377 Ara­mingo Ave., is selling rib­bon-shaped pret­zels for $1 this month. All of the pro­ceeds will go to causes that sup­port aut­ism aware­ness.

If you can’t make it to this store, on Na­tion­al Pret­zel Day, April 26, all Philly Soft Pret­zel Fact­ory loc­a­tions will give out a free pret­zel to every cus­tom­er throughout the day.

The Philly Soft Pret­zel Fact­ory will be on the CBS TV series Un­der­cov­er Boss. The show will air on Fri­day, April 27. ull;•

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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