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Star of Queens: Greg Vasicek, president and founder, Play4Autism Foundation


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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COMMUNITY SERVICE:  Greg Vasicek is the president and founder of the Play4Autism Foundation, a registered nonprofit organization that helps children on the autism spectrum get active.

BACKGROUND:  Vasicek grew up in New Rochelle, and started playing professional ice hockey at 18 in England.  After a 15-year career, Vasicek came back to the United States and decided to concentrate his efforts by pursuing hockey as an event promoter and coach.  Vasinek’s success in this field led him to establish partnerships with several corporations, which eventually served as a platform for his vision, Play4Austism.

Vasicek founded the organization in December of 2011 in Arizona.  After returning to New York in October of 2012 he expanded the foundation.

INSPIRATION: Vasicek has a nephew who is along the autism spectrum, who he cites as his inspiration in creating the Play4Austism Foundation.  Along with his nephew, Vasicek finds inspiration in his future wife, Helena, who has helped him a lot with his work for the organization.

GOALS: Vasicek has been able to help 20 to 25 kids in the Middle Village area, as well as kids in other areas outside Queens, like Arizona and Utah. Vasicek’s goal for his organization is to increase awareness of autism and to help children get the attention they need to develop social and recreational skills, while offering these services to parents at a minimal cost.

Play4Austim also partnered with Kidz into Action programs, which offer children the opportunity to improve their self esteem, leadership, social and communication skills.

FAVORITE MEMORY:  For Vasicek the most rewarding part of working with the kids and their families is just seeing them happy. “Just seeing a smile on a child’s face after tossing a football around for five minutes and the proud look and some tears of [their] mother or father is what it’s all about.”   

BIGGEST CHALLENGE:  The biggest challenge Vasicek has faced is finding a permanent location for his organization and for the people who help him out. “I definitely hope to find a place in the coming year that we can call home,” he said.

 

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Fishing raises funds for autism programs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

A Middle Village-based autism advocacy group hosted a fundraising fishing tournament and raffle that reeled in more than $350.

Play4Autism, which seeks to engage children with autism in various sports activities, organized the tournament together with Pat’s Sports Bar on August 4, to fund events through the year for kids with the disorder.

“Everybody had fun and understood what the program is about,” said Greg Vasicek, founder of the organization. “The whole object is to bring the community together and to help the children.”

The tournament was held on a boat named The Captains’ Lady, which traveled from the Sheepshead Bay Piers in Brooklyn to the Atlantic Ocean. There the competitors fished for fluke, sea bass and porgies.

The event had 18 competitors from Middle Village, who caught more than 75 fish combined. Adam Gellerstein, who caught the first fish, and Bill Bornhoeft, who snagged the longest fish– a fluke at 22 inches—received $50 cash rewards.

Following the fishing tournament, Pat’s Sports Bar in Middle Village hosted the raffle, which featured a new Coors Light Mountain Bike.

Adam also caught a baby shark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About one in 88 children is affected by autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disorder impairs a person’s ability to communicate and form relationships and so far there is no known cure.

Throughout the year Play4Autism creates activities such as street hockey, basketball and even Tiger Schulmann’s Karate lessons so they can interact and make friends. The group also sponsors music lessons and arts and craft activities, and is seeking to add acting and science lessons as well.

Play4Autism’s events are mostly funded through donations and fundraisers such as the fishing tournament and other sports events. “People relate to recreational activities,” Vasicek said. “They understand that and everybody enjoys themselves.”

 

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