By John Palinkas
On a recent Monday morning in May, more than 100 IT executives gathered at Neshanic Valley Golf Course in Neshanic Station, New Jersey, for a day of golf. What made this particular golf outing unique was that the executives were playing for charity.
The May 20th golf outing was sponsored by the NJ SIM Foundation, a 501c(3) organization that provides expert advice and funding to improve the technology of charitable organizations in New Jersey. The foundation also awards scholarships to New Jersey students pursuing degrees in IT.
The NJ SIM Foundation is the fundraising arm of the SIM NJ Chapter, which is a local chapter of the Society for Information Management (SIM). All foundation members are volunteers who have an interest in giving back to their local community. For the last several years, the foundation has held an annual golf outing to raise money for New Jersey charities. The 2013 NJ SIM CIO Technology Exchange & Charity Golf Outing was supported by the donations of 25 technology product and service companies, and was attended by more than 100 participants.
My day started with a continental breakfast at the Neshanic Valley Country Club, and the next few hours were spent talking with some of the 25-plus vendors at the CIO Technology Expo. The vendors’ donations for participating in this event are tax deductible, and they raised more than $100,000 for the NJ SIM Foundation. After a light lunch, the participants and vendors headed out for a round of golf. Since I have not played in years, I decided to take advantage of the free golf clinic. The clinic provided an hour of helpful instruction from golf pros and a round on the nine-hole Academy course.
After playing golf, everyone met at the clubhouse for a cocktail hour of networking, which was followed by a buffet dinner. During the dinner, the foundation presented a $2,500 scholarship award to each of four undergraduate students: John Christer Salvador and Vladimir Ventura, both from Rutgers University, and Bryan Nissen and Skyker Lutz, both from New Jersey Institute of Technology. Each of the students gave a short speech, and it was enlightening to hear about their accomplishments, which include publishing iPhone apps and hosting a fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy victims.
The next speaker was Tom Rosella, chairperson and founder of the Giving Hope Network (GHN), which helps people with autism. What is unique about GHN is that it takes on the role as a facilitator of programs for an individual’s entire life span, rather than just focusing on early age. Also, GHN views the autistic community as a main part of its network and has a long-term commitment to the community.
GHN has researched autism with the goal to find a scalable solution that can help autistic people for their entire life. It was discovered that people with autism can communicate well with an iPad, mainly through communicating via typing or use of symbol language, as well as using the iPad’s apps to discover all types of new subjects. In his speech, Tom told a story about a student who received an iPad and wrote, “Please tell my teacher that I am not stupid.”
GHN has decided to launch the iPad-based Hear Me Now project, which involves donating 10,000 iPads to partnering schools. The schools will use the Hear Me Now platform—which includes an iPad, application and training—together with parents to teach children with autism how to have a high-value career. GHN asks the partnering schools to commit to developing and implementing programs that teach employable skills and share their programs with other schools. The Hear Me Now project will start in June with two New Jersey schools, with the goal of adding more schools next year.