T-shirt sales to benefit local foundation

Sensory Sacks donated to first responders in Worcester from the Start Em Early Foundation, started by Southwick residents Erik and Jo-Ann Davidson. Jo-Ann is pictured at right. (START EM EARLY FOUNDATION PHOTO)

Sales will fund ‘Sensory Sack’ project

SOUTHWICK – The Southwick-based Start Em Early Foundation is hosting a T-shirt fundraiser to benefit its “Sensory Sack” program.

The Foundation was started by Southwick residents Erik and Jo-Ann Davidson with a mission to teach youth basic medical skills and educate first responders about autism spectrum disorder and how first responders can help patients or those at the scene of an emergency with autism to feel more comfortable.

“We use curriculum for scouting, Young Marines, and other civic groups to teach requirements and ‘the Basics’,” said Erik Davidson, noting those skills include CPR, first aid and community service. “Most of our instructors are all volunteer adults, who either work in fire, EMS, law enforcement or first response.”

He said the sensory sack project is the key component to the Foundation’s autism awareness and education program. The sensory sacks are bags filled with items that can have a calming effect on an autistic person. Items can include coloring books and crayons, fidget spinners, stress balls, beads and more. Sensory sacks are donated by the Foundation to first responder departments. In the past year, 126 sacks have been donated to 42 departments in eight states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Maryland.

The Foundation received funding late in 2020 from TMobile and used much of the funds to donate needed items, including noise canceling headsets with microphones, sensory tools and alternative seating, to Fort Meadow Early Education Center in Westfield, Powder Mill School in Southwick and the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District in Charlton.

The T-shirt campaign began last week. Shirts come in several shades of blue in sizes up to 3X and aim to raise awareness of autism and education for first responders ahead of April, which is Autism Awareness Month. April 2 is World Autism Day. Shirts can be purchased on bonfire.com. The couple hope to sell 200 shirts, the proceeds of which will be used to purchase items for the sensory sacks.

“The more T-Shirts sold means more sensory sacks for first responders,” said Davidson.

To Top