Jeremiah School named Tri-Cities Dancing with the Stars fundraiser recipient

Brandon Paykamian • Feb 20, 2019 at 11:52 PM

Johnson City’s Jeremiah School was founded in 2015 with the sole purpose of educating students with autism who have difficulty in traditional public school settings.

Since its founding, the nonprofit school has been largely funded by grants and donations, but the school was also recently named the recipient of the 11th annual Tri-Cities Dancing with the Stars fundraiser through the nonprofit Dance for Change.

The fundraiser, which will be held at Kingsport’s Meadowview Convention Center on June 8, has previously raised funds for SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services, founded by Dance for Change President and SteppenStone Executive Clinical Director James Michael Adler.

Adler said he wanted to support another, newer nonprofit supporting at-risk children similar to many he has worked with at SteppenStone. He was originally unaware of Jeremiah School, but he immediately felt the school was filling a “great need” for the community and children on the autism spectrum when he found out about it. 

“When we had suggestions from our stars and our committee, several of the nonprofits came in and did presentations (in January). The reason for Jeremiah School is our mission to support the growth, development and education of children at risk, and of course, autism and the spectrum disorder is something I’ve had experience treating in my therapy,” he said. “They are doing what I did, which is starting something committed to a cause.”

Jeremiah School Director Jo Cullen said Wednesday she was happy to hear the news the school would be receiving the funds and that their work with kids on the spectrum has received more public recognition.

“For us to be named on all the publicity, be in the papers, on the internet and held up in front of all those people is fabulous,” she said. “The money that comes with it will be primarily used to fund scholarships and tuition for students.”

Cullen said the funds, which will also fund special equipment and new buses for students, will be a “complete game-changer” for the young school.

Jeremiah School often takes students on field trips to supermarkets, restaurants, the public library and other places, but have had to rely on staff vehicles for many of these trips designed to help foster growth in social skills.

“The other thing we are looking to fund is a bus because we go out into the community every week,” Cullen said. “We’ve been using staff cars, and we have too many children for the staff cars, so we need a 15-seat bus to go out into the community.”

Equipment will also be added to the school’s “sensory room,” a place where students can unwind and relax to avoid sensory overload, a common symptom of autism.

If this year’s dancing event and fundraiser is able to garner as much support as last year’s, Adler said the school will be able to serve more students.

“It all depends on community support, but if it’s anything like what we’ve had in the past, we’re hopeful to hit the $100,000 mark,” he said.

Tickets for the Dancing with the Stars fundraiser event will be on sale starting March 1. For more information and tickets, visit www.dancingwiththetricitiesstars.com.

For more information on Jeremiah School, visit www.jeremiahschool.com.