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Sarah Palin speaks at fundraiser in St. James

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told a crowd of more than a thousand in St. James Sunday night that she will continue to advocate for children and adults who have developmental disabilities.

Reiterating comments from her speech at the Republican National Convention last September, in which Palin declared herself an advocate for developmentally disabled children, she stressed that her commitment to the cause has not changed just because the Republicans failed to capture the White House.

"And, just because our ticket placed second, second out of two, we still have an advocate for the cause," Palin joked, which drew loud applause.

Palin's 1-year-old son, Trig, was born with Down syndrome.

Palin, 45, arrived in St. James after attending a Yankees game with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. She was here to help raise money for Independent Group Home Living, a nonprofit organization providing programs, services and support for people with developmental disabilities.

Before her speech, she met briefly with U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), then posed for photos on a decorative bridge over a fountain, waving to the crowd.

Palin, who has not ventured out of Alaska much since the end of her failed vice presidential bid, is quietly returning to the national stage. Her week-long visit to the East Coast, starting with low-key appearances in upstate New York and then Long Island, will no doubt give Palin the opportunities to build her political base.

Accompanying Palin on the trip is her husband, Todd, and the couple's 14-year-old daughter, Willow, as well as Palin's sister, Heather Bruce and Bruce's son Karcher, also 14.

"We need people out there to talk for us," said Walter W. Stockton, IGHL's chief executive officer. "She represents hope to all those families who also have the burden of taking care of their special needs children."

Although Stockton can't say what type of advocacy work Palin has done on behalf developmentally disabled children, he said her popularity and high-profile status makes her an effective spokeswoman for the group and that's why Palin was chosen as this year's honoree.

"She's out there. Before anyone can do anything about it, people need to recognize it," said Stockton.

Celebrating IGHL's third decade of service, Stockton said the group hopes to raise $750,000 from last night's gala dinner. Each of the 1,000 guests paid $125 to attend the dinner.

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