Matthew Kiley looked like a healthy newborn, but nearly two years later he still couldn’t speak.
John Kiley’s now 5-year-old son, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome a year ago, will be awarded $6,000 for his parents to spend on therapeutic programs. Kiley, who graduated from New Hyde Park Memorial High School in 1981, will be recognized at the 24th annual Gladiator Fund Benefit Dinner on April 5 at 7 p.m. at The Inn at New Hyde Park.
The Gladiator Fund, founded in 1989 by high school alumni Dan Connor and Mike Kelly, has raised nearly $130,000 since its inception, covering the medical costs and therapy for children with disabilities in the New Hyde Park area.
“There are things that he needs,” said Kiley, 49, of his son. “There are these apps for autistic children to make their lives easier and our biggest fear is that we lose him, so I want to look into a tracking device. He wanders off all the time.”
The fund held its first benefit dinner in 1990 to raise money to help pay for speech therapy and medical treatment for Chris Butz, who was born developmentally disabled. The 240 attendees raised $5,000 for the 3-year-old and his parents, Chris and Katie Butz.
Connor, 55, a licensed social worker who helps the homeless find housing in New York City, said it’s incredible to see his own hometown support their neighbors year after year.
“It’s very humbling to be able to help so many kids,” said Connor, who graduated in 1975 and is chairman of the fund. “I’m glad that we can at least help in some small way to make life easier for those kids and their parents.”
The fund’s 24th annual golf classic at Clearview Golf Course in Bayside is on Sept. 13.
“It’s all by word of mouth, and although New Hyde Park is a large community, we’re very close,” said Connor. “I couldn’t believe how many of my friends needed help. So far, we’ve helped 50 kids with autism, Down syndrome, leukemia and cerebral palsy.”
Among the many uses of the money, Kiley wants to put his son in a one-on-one program that nurtures his love of reading.
“He loves books. He’s very smart, smarter than me,” Kiley said. “If I read him a book for the first time, that afternoon he’ll come home from school and he’ll stop me in the middle of a sentence and yell out the next word. He has an unbelievable memory.”
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