Drive through Teaneck and you might catch “The Great Marsini” at work. The entrepreneurial 10-year-old makes sure his lemonade or hot cocoa stand (depending on the season) stands above the rest.
“I do magic tricks,” said Ben Mars. “One time a man stopped by on his way to bringing his wife to the hospital just for a glass of lemonade.”
Now the fifth grader is trying to catch the public’s attention for a different cause. He’s a member of the Youth Committee for the sixth annual NJ Walks for TS at Mendham. The event is a 5K walk and family fun run to benefit the Education Outreach Program of the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders, Inc. (NJCTS).
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is an inherited neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. TS affects as many as 1 in 100 people and is frequently accompanied by ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, learning disabilities, and childhood mental health conditions.
Kids with TS often report feelings of isolation and having a visible disorder makes them targets for bullies. Classroom learning is challenging for children coping with more than one disorder beyond TS. School can be extremely difficult for the 20,000 New Jersey kids living with TS. Ben was one of them.
“It was hard to find a school for me,” said Ben. “I kept thinking am I a problem?”
He is happy at The Park Academy in River Vale and now wants to help others with TS feel understood. He invites the public to attend NJ Walks for TS at Mendham on November 14th to learn about TS and to extend friendship to the TS community. Registration is available at www.njcts.org.
All proceeds go to outreach programs to teachers, students, doctors, and other healthcare professionals at schools and hospitals across the state.
Ben knows firsthand the empowerment that kids with TS feel once they are understood— especially through in-school presentations.
As for his greatest trick, Ben wants to make TS disappear by working actively for a cure. He’s on the right team as NJCTS is home to the world’s only TS Cell and DNA repository at Rutgers University. For right now, the scientists will handle the research while Ben uses his charm to bring attention to the cause.
On November 14th, Ben will walk with scores of other kids with TS for a day of awareness, acceptance, and advocacy—and he wants you to join them. Registration for NJ Walks for TS begins at 8 a.m. at Mendham Borough Park at the intersection of Mountain and Park Avenues. The day will feature a timed 5K and simultaneous walk, music by the Good Works Band and solo artist Dawson Coyle, food and family fun. For questions about the walk, or to learn more about TS, visit www.njcts.org or call 908-575-7350.