Rabbi Wohlberg, Cantor Albrecht, Hayden, family and friends, we are so excited to be here tonight.

I’ve thought about this moment for such a long time and thought about what I wanted to say. But how can I put into words what it means to be here and how much Hayden has given to us?

10 years ago, PJ and I didn’t know if this moment would be possible. We didn’t know if a lot of moments would be possible. But we learned that they are. Hayden has taken us on a journey that was unplanned and unexpected. It hasn’t been easy but the most important moments in life rarely are.

We had to learn a lot in order to help Hayden, but Hayden has taught us more then we could possibly imagine.

Hayden has taught us to celebrate every achievement no matter how small. Whether it was saying a new word, making a spontaneous comment or just putting his dishes in the sink. All accomplishments deserved to be noticed, praised and celebrated.

Hayden has taught us to be patient. That if you really want to connect with someone you need to give them time. When you are patient you become part of real moments. We ask Hayden questions and give him the time he needs to answer. By being patient, we’ve learned so much about what he’s thinking.

Hayden has taught us not to sweat the small stuff. Have you ever taken a moment and really thought about what the most important thing in your life is? Have you ever thought about what you really want for you kids? Hayden came into our lives and made us think about what’s truly important and we don’t worry about what doesn’t matter.
Hayden has taught us that family is the most important thing. He has brought us together and made us closer as a family. We are stronger because of what we have learned with him and we know that we are in it together; always.

Hayden is amazing.

And so are all of you.

PJ and I are thrilled to be celebrating with everyone in this room. You have all helped us on this journey and for many of you, Hayden has brought you into our lives. We are so thankful for all your love and support.

Rabbi Wohlberg – your kindness and encouragement started over a decade ago when I sat in your office talking to you about Hayden and you’ve been with us every step of the way. From being at Hayden’s preschool graduation at The Shafer Center to today for his Bar Mitzvah. You’ve been by our side. Thank you.

Cantor Albrecht – it’s a real honor to have you here for Hayden’s Bar Mitzvah. Thank you.

Rabbi Wecker – you supported Hayden behind the scenes and we could not have taught him his prayers without you. Thank you.

To our many friends – whether it’s been by playing poker or going out to lunch with PJ or talking on the phone or going out to lunch with me, you’ve given us some normal. To be with you just, doing whatever it is has meant so much to us. Thank you.

To our Autism friends – you have all come into our lives due to Hayden and we are grateful. There is no group on earth who can give you hope and encouragement in the ways that you have given us. Laughter at pooping stories and pride using curse words instead of other less desirable activities. Your help has been priceless. Thank you.

To Hayden’s team – his teachers, his services providers, and our Shafer Center family. Without all of you, none of this would have been possible. You have guided us through our journey with knowledge and advice and through your talents we have been able to help Hayden. They say that heroes don’t perceive their actions as heroic. But there is no action greater then helping someone else. That is truly heroic. You are our heroes. Thank you.

To Christine – it was Hayden and a-had-to-be fated phone call that brought us together. There are no words to express the impact you have had on our lives and many others. You have been with us through everything; cared for every member of my family. You are brilliant, humble, and a great friend. Know that it is because of you that Hayden’s future and the future of my family is filled with possibility. It’s a precious gift you have given us. Thank you.

To Yaya – everyone should have someone in their lives that loves them with all of their heart, listens to everything they say, and does everything and anything they want. Hayden has a very special love for you, as I know you have for him. You have been wonderful to us and you are family. Thank you.

To David and Angel – Dave, you gave me the gift of time when I needed it the most. You also made sure I laughed and having some funny lightened my load. You and Angel are just fun to be around – whether at the beach or just hanging at the house. We have a great time with you because you keep it simple. Thank you.

To Mom and Dad – the two of you have been my rock. No matter what was happening, whenever I needed to talk, you were there and still are. That support has been invaluable to me so many times. I know you wanted to do something more to help but just letting me be with you and tell you what was happening was something I needed and you gave it to me with open arms. You love us and the kids and know that we love you both very much. Thank you.

To Linda and Alan – you have both always been super proud of Hayden and who he is. You have been such strong advocates for PJ and I. Whenever we needed you, you where there – driving carpool, bringing food, or hosting sleepovers. Anything we have ever needed we know we can count on you to be there. Your love for Hayden and all of us is immeasurable. Know that we love you too. Thank you.

To Serena – you are the best sister ever. We know it hasn’t been easy for you – you’ve grown up with different rules and always hyper aware of what’s happening around you. But through all of that, your love for your brother and desire to help him grew and grew. Hayden is very lucky to have you as his sister and Dad and I are very lucky to have you as our daughter. We love you and thank you.

To PJ – it was over 17 years ago that we got married in this very spot. I couldn’t imagine the journey we would be going on together and I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. You have made many sacrifices along the way but never saw them as a sacrifice. I’m in awe of that. You are a wonderful father and the best husband. I love you more than words can express. Thank you.

PJ and I hope all of you have a magical evening tonight. Thank you for being here with us. This has truly been the best Thanksgiving.