At the heart of Luca Iallonardi’s volunteering career is love for his brother, Jackson, who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In his winning essay, Iallonardi wrote that he and his family have volunteered with a local outreach program for people with autism, the Nassau Suffolk Autism Society of America, since he was very young.
The purpose of the organization is to create social and recreational activities for children and teens with ASD that afford them those crucial social mixing possibilities without overstimulation or triggers. In the past, the community has rented theaters so the kids and their families could attend movies, got everyone tickets to theme parks, and organized similar events.
“Jackson might not understand a movie [or similar activities],” Iallonardi said in an interview, “but he would still enjoy the experience of being out and doing something.” Wanting to give back to a community that has enriched the life of his brother and countless others, Luca Iallonardi decided to go big.
The incoming Brown University freshman decided, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that it was time to put forth even more effort in his volunteer work. The goal: to complete a 100-mile bike race called Bike to the Beach as a fundraising opportunity to ensure that the NSASA’s coffers don’t dry up anytime soon.
Iallonardi was more successful than he anticipated. After grueling and intense daily and weekly training regimens, he completed his goal and raised over $8,000.
“I am not an athlete, so this personal sacrifice in the name of the community was difficult for me,” Iallonardi wrote in his winning essay. “But I explored new areas of myself along the way, and made an incredibly positive impact on a community that I hold near and dear to my heart, so overall it was a very formative and enjoyable experience.”
This fall, Iallonardi attends Brown University, where he plans to major in music after completing general education courses. However, he also plans to continue his Bike to the Beach fundraising efforts for NSASA, embodying the spirit of giving that the Cohen & Jaffe Community Volunteer Scholarship was designed to promote.
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