Miss Middlesex County Outstanding Teen and her family prove Strength in Beauty

The Garcias are this year's host family for the sixth annual NJ Walks for TS at Mendham. They invite walkers and runners to register at www.njcts.org.

The Garcias are this year’s host family for the sixth annual NJ Walks for TS at Mendham. They invite walkers and runners to register at www.njcts.org.

There’s nothing that the love of family can’t accomplish.

Together, the Garcia family of Rahway is working hard to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome and improve understanding of the complex disorder among healthcare providers and educators. They are the host family of this year’s NJ Walks for TS at Mendham, a 5K walk and fun run on November 14th.

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. TS affects as many as 1 in 100 people, or an estimated 20,000 school-age children in New Jersey today.

“Not many people know that TS is a syndrome that does not come alone, it encompasses other disorders and disabilities,” said Clarivel Garcia, mother of three girls, the youngest of which has TS.

For the Garcias, Tourette Syndrome advocacy is a family affair.

Sarah Garcia, the youngest of three girls, lives with TS. Her older sisters, Clarisavel and Leandra, along with their mom and dad, Jose, are each raising awareness in their own way. Earlier this year, Leandra won Miss Middlesex County Outstanding Teen 2015 for the Miss America organization.

Leandra Garcia is Miss Middlesex County Outstanding Teen 2016 and is using her platform to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome in honor of her younger sister Sarah.

Leandra Garcia is Miss Middlesex County Outstanding Teen 2016 and is using her platform to raise awareness of Tourette Syndrome in honor of her younger sister Sarah.

“The [contestant] Queens are encouraged to be involved with the community and pick an organization close to their hearts,” said Clarivel. “She picked NJCTS for the past three years to spread awareness in honor of her little sister.”

The goal of her family’s participation in NJ Walks for TS at Mendham, according to Clarivel, is to “help the walk raise sufficient funds to continue to educate schools, teachers, students, and families in the community.”

“The public should attend NJ Walks for TS to help educate the community and provide support for the other diagnoses that may be involved,” said Clarivel. “Attending this event will give TS more positive exposure and, in the long run, help reach many areas of support needed by our families and communities.” Registration is available at www.njcts.org.

All proceeds from NJ Walks for TS benefit the Education Outreach Program of the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS). The outreach includes on-site training for doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, and students at schools and hospitals across the state; college workshops for educators-in-training; peer presentations to encourage acceptance and anti-bulling; and youth leadership training. NJ Walks for TS at Mendham began in 2010 and serves as the flagship event in North Jersey as the movement has grown to include NJ Walks in Central (Princeton) and South Jersey (Medford Lakes).

NJ Walks for TS is making it possible for NJCTS to provide the latest information to help professionals identify, diagnose and manage TS and its associated disorders.

“We have reached 82% more educators and students in the past year alone,” said NJCTS Executive Director Faith W. Rice. “This is a testament to the success of NJ Walks for TS, but we still have more professionals, children and families to reach.”

“You don’t have to have a personal connection to TS to help make life better for thousands of children and families across the state,” said Rice. “Join us for a fun day in Mendham or consider making a donation—all proceeds will go to work at school or hospital near you.”

The Garcia family is working to make this year’s event the biggest yet. To join them, or to contribute to the outreach work happening across the state, visit www.njcts.org.

NJ Walks for TS at Mendham is set for Saturday, Nov. 14th at Mendham Borough Park at the intersection of Mountain and Park Avenues. The event is rain or shine and check-in will begin at 8 a.m. For more information about the event, or to learn more about Tourette Syndrome, visit www.njcts.org.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

The NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome joins the movement to prevent bullying,

expanding its Youth Advocate Program

NJCTS Youth Advocate Mike Hayden presents to the Cresskill school district.

NJCTS Youth Advocate Mike Hayden presents to the Cresskill school district.

This October, schools and organizations all across the country are observing National Bullying Prevention Month. All students should feel safe in school and have the opportunity to grow and thrive, academically and socially, and through its  Youth Advocate program, the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders (NJCTS) is taking special steps to prevent bullying.

NJCTS Youth Advocate presentations inform youth about Tourette Syndrome (TS)—a misunderstood and misdiagnosed disorder that affects 1 in 100 school-aged children who are often the targets of bullying. Advocates are 13- to 18-years-old and either have a TS diagnosis or live with a sibling or family member with TS. In addition to providing an overview of the neurological disorder, the Advocates promote understanding and tolerance, and deliver a strong anti-bullying message. The presentations have grown to include a discussion of the Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.

“NJCTS has long been and continues to be one of the most important organizations addressing childhood bullying in NJ schools,” said Dr. Stuart Green, Director of NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention and Associate Director of Overlook Family Medicine. “Their innovative youth advocacy program provides a much-needed service. The program empowers and gives voice to youth with TS, shines a light on a commonly misunderstood and stigmatized condition, and helps NJ youth and their teachers strengthen their empathy for those who are vulnerable and targeted. The NJCTS Youth Advocates are heroes for an important cause – they deserve our recognition and support.”

In recognition of the efforts to improve school climate and reduce rates of bullying, NJCTS regularly coordinates Youth Advocate presentations in schools and community groups, reaching thousands of students throughout New Jersey. Since the program’s launch in 2009, NJCTS Youth Advocates have conducted more than 250 presentations, raising awareness and increasing sensitivity and understanding.

“Our Youth Advocates foster understanding, sensitivity, and tolerance of TS while displacing the myths and stereotypes that are often associated with this misunderstood and misdiagnosed disorder,” said NJCTS Executive Director Faith W. Rice. “By educating others, we hope that each new generation will grow up with a better understanding of TS, making biases a thing of the past.”

During National Bullying Prevention Month, NJCTS will be training a new “class” of Advocates on Saturday, October 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Morris County Library, 30 East Hanover Ave., Whippany, NJ 07981.

For more information or to attend the training, please contact Gina Maria Jones, M.Ed, NJCTS Education Outreach Coordinator, at gjones@njcts.org or 908-575-7350.