Thursday September 20th was the night of the long awaited Sparkle Speaks event to benefit Autism Speaks. The event, held at The Brownstone House, was hosted by Real Housewives of New Jersey star Jacqueline Laurita and organized by The Sparkling Event, owned by her nieces Candice Laurita and Cristina Granelli. Though filled with all the reminders that this was RHONJ star sponsored, from the attendees to the bottles of BLK water on the table, the main purpose of the event was what truly sparkled:
“I’m not a public speaker, I feel more comfortable with a camera crew around me than an audience, “ Jacqueline said to me regarding the moving speech she made about her son Nicholas and how valuable Autism Speaks has been for her family. “I just spoke from my heart and talked about what I knew. I’m very grateful to both of my nieces for having this event tonight for Autism Speaks. I learned a lot from (Autism Speaks), so I wanted to do something special for them. They really helped me navigate my way through Autism when I didn’t know a whole lot. One thing I have learned about this community is that everybody is willing to help and offer resources and information. It’s been incredible. I felt like a lot of people have helped me. The more I have networked the more I have learned and the more I learn the more I want to help other people. It’s all about finding ways to recover our children.”
Also speaking at the event was Michael Ginagregorio, Chair of Autism Speaks’ Long Island, NY, Executive Committee. “Autism affects one in eighty-eight children,” he stated during a very informative and heartfelt speech in which he discussed both the organization and his personal journey as a parent of an Autistic son. “Nicholas will only be a child for a short time,” he said as he pointed out the important role Autism Speaks plays in also helping adults with Autism.
Most of the Laurita-Manzo families were in attendance. Lauren Manzo, donated a basket from her shop Cafface. She looked fantastic, though is very shy when it comes to such compliments. Her mother Caroline Manzo is humble as well, “I still don’t believe all this, ” she said to me amid fans coming up for pictures and small talk, “I’m just a regular woman.” A regular woman who has quite a family. She and Albert Manzo, seated at the table next to us, spent the evening holding hands and gazing into one another’s eyes like teenagers in love. “We are very lucky, ” said their son, Albie, who was there with his girlfriend Linsdsey Andrews, who is even more stunning in person.
Also at the event was Chris Laurita and Chris Manzo. Nettie Laurita, matriarch of the family was beaming with pride. She’s an incredible woman and I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with her as our tables were next to one another.
My table consisted of a fun group of women put together by myself and my good friend, Miss Advised star and author of 8 Weeks to Everlasting, Amy Laurent. One of my guests, a mother of a teenage daughter with Autism, offered her advice to Jacqueline, who spent the evening talking to as many of the guests, many parents of Autistic children, as possible. I honestly don’t even think Jac sat down to eat. That’s how sweet and personable, and determined she is to make a difference in the lives of others.
I caught up with Cristina Granelli on Friday to find out how she felt after organizing and orchestrating such a successful evening which resulted in over 17k dollars raised, including a generous re-donation of the prize won in the 50/50 raffle:
“I can’t even begin to express the amount of support that filled the room last night. Everyone had a story, we had a story. It’s funny because you may not have the known the person sitting across from you but it didn’t matter- there was a sense of unspoken truth that we were all there for the same reason. Either we know someone with Autism or we love someone with Autism. For us, we are truly blessed to love a very special little boy. You know, as we stood in front of a room full of moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandparents, cousins, and/or friends the love and support could truly be felt. We are so thankful to have been able to bring awareness to a cause we feel is so important. It’s truly a journey we all will take together. It’s nice to know, no matter what the day to day brings- we’re going to take this journey side by side.”