Local girl makes masks to help people with autism


A local girl is using her time and talents to help individuals with autism and make a difference in her community.

When the pandemic began, Caroline Holtslander, 11, of Rome, started her own business sewing masks to help people who had a hard time finding them because of the initial mask shortage.

Holtslander has continued sewing masks, over 800 to be exact, this time to support The Kelberman Center, a local organization that provides services and supports to children and adults with autism. For every mask sold, Caroline also donates one to the Kelberman Center.

“I told my mom I wanted to donate to an organization somehow with the masks I was making,” Caroline said.

“We had these puzzle patterns, and my mom suggested I donate them to help people with autism. It makes me feel good to know that I’m helping my community by donating and creating autism awareness by having friends and family wear my autism masks.”  

Kelberman Center Executive Director Tara Costello said Holtslander’s effort is not only spreading awareness, but also joy during a very difficult time for many. “Thank you to Caroline for spreading joy to our staff and families at The Kelberman Center this holiday season,” Costello said. “It is amazing that Caroline has chosen the use of puzzle piece fabric, representative of autism awareness, to help further our mission, while also helping to keep everyone safe and healthy.”  

The puzzle piece was adopted in 1999 as the universal sign of the autism awareness movement, according to the national Autism Society. “The puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum,” the Autism Society says. “The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition.” Adding that individuals with autism often have a wide range of skills and abilities as well as unique challenges as a result of their disability.

The Kelberman Center, an affiliate of Upstate Caring Partners, Inc., provides state-of-the-art programs and services for children and adults with ASD and their families. Specialized staffing is highly trained to meet the needs of individuals with ASD and includes psychologists, social workers and educational and behavior specialists. Its team of professionals addresses the unique needs of both individuals and their families through various programs and services. 

For information, email the Kelberman Center at info@kelbermancenter.org.


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