‘Picnic in the Park’ is planned to promote diversity, acceptance and love

(back l to r) Carl, Luca, and Maya and (front) Sabina Terrades
Photo/courtesy Sabina Terrades

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – Maya Terrades recently had a birthday party. She invited a group of “friends” who said they would come. She waited in front of the window for two hours. No one showed up. It was the second year in a row that this happened, leaving Maya, and her mother, Sabina, heartbroken.

After sharing her frustration on Facebook, something remarkable happened, Sabina said. Hundreds of people reached out, in a very big way, to say what had happened was not indicative of the community on whole and that there are indeed, many kind, compassionate people around.

“Maya has autism. She can be quirky, socially awkward and she thinks you are her friend after one conversation, and she strives to be popular and her heart gets broken all the time. She is a friendly, smart girl but yes, she is different,” explained Terrades.

“I went to the Shrewsbury Facebook page to vent and ask parents to teach their children that special need kids have feelings too,” she added.

The posting quickly gained traction with multiple comments and reactions, leaving Terrades feeling overwhelmed.

Families shared their stories and experiences with kids being “ostracized and bullied” because of their special needs, physical appearance, race, religion, etc. It happens all the time, they noted, even in Shrewsbury.

“I was flabbergasted and deeply humbled by the reaction of the community. People have been sending cards and gifts, Ski Ward offered to host a birthday party for her. Price Chopper offered all the supplies for a party. Greendale Physical Therapy wrote ‘Happy Birthday Maya’ on their Route 9 sign,” Terrades said. “The Police Department is planning to come over this week with flowers for Maya and Channel 7 News [from Boston] will be coming next week with a crew to interview me.”

Local Realtor and Kindness Coalition founder Andrea Castinetti was one of those who vowed to make a difference as well. She quickly started organizing a town-wide event – “Picnic in the Park – Promoting Love and Acceptance” which will be held at Dean Park in Shrewsbury on Sunday, Aug. 26, from 3-6:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend this free event.

“Recent events (Maya’s birthday) have prompted us to put on this event to promote love and acceptance of kids of all abilities. We want to lead by example and teach our children to accept kids/peers regardless of the color of their skin, nationality, race, religion and ability,” she said.     “We want to put an end to bullying. We want to come together as a community and show everyone that there is no place for hate here! Please join us for a fun day.”

Activities will include music, a magic/balloon show with Steve Charette, rock painting, face painting, games and activities, snacks goodies and a birthday cake for all kids, she added.

The Kindness Coalition requests, in lieu of birthday presents for Maya, attendees consider making a donation of new school supplies for the organization’s “Fill the Shelves” event.

For more information contact Castinetti at 508-277-0063 or email [email protected] or find them on Facebook under “Kindness Coalition”.