Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities Raises $70,000 at 2015 Benefit Gala; Honors David Flink, Author of Thinking Differently

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Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities raised $70,000 at its 2015 Benefit Gala, held in honor of author David Flink, founder of a national mentoring program for students and the first recipient of the nonprofit’s “Be the Difference” Award.

David Flink, Author of Thinking Differently and Inaugural Recipient of "Be the Difference" Award

The potential cure to cancer lives in the brain of someone who thinks differently.

Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities raised $70,000 at its 2015 Benefit Gala, held March 7 at the Stamford Marriott. Over 225 attended the event, HELPING KIDS ROCK Their Potential, featuring an awards ceremony, live and silent auctions. The evening honored author David Flink who received the nonprofit’s inaugural “Be the Difference” Award. He is the co-founder and CEO of Eye to Eye, a national mentoring program for students with learning disabilities.

During the ceremony, David Flink was given a brief introduction by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Philip Schultz, a past recipient of Smart Kids’ Community Service Award. Both men are dyslexic and are strong advocates for individuals of all ages with learning disabilities.

In his introductory remarks, Philip Schultz praised David Flink’s “warmth and whole-hearted commitment” to the dyslexic community.

“The word ‘community’ should be underlined here,” said Schultz, whose collection of poems, titled Failure, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, “because David Flink has given this community a great gift, a community of its own, one in which young people and adults alike feel both appreciated and acknowledged.”

In his acceptance speech, David Flink, as the first recipient of the “Be the Difference” Award, shared his vision that people with learning disabilities and ADHD (attention deficit disorder) are not only accepted and valued but tapped to use their unique strengths to change the world.

“The potential cure to cancer lives in the brain of someone who thinks differently,” said Flink, author of the book, Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents and Children with Learning Disabilities, published in 2014.

He added, “I believe that we are citizens of a country that does not yet exist. It’s a place called dyslexia. It’s a place called ADHD. It’s a place where I find my family.”

He credited Jane Ross, Executive Director of Smart Kids, for pioneering the cause of acceptance and understanding for those struggling with learning disabilities. “When I think about what vision Jane had for us 15 years ago when she founded Smart Kids, it was this country, this place,” he said.

One of the evening’s highlights was the Youth Achievement Awards, given in recognition of young people with learning disabilities and ADHD. This year, Zachary Milestone of New Jersey won the Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award, plus a $1,000 grant. Five others were also honored at the event.

This year marked the 12th anniversary of the Youth Achievement Awards, named after the late Dr. Fred J. Epstein, a world renowned pediatric surgeon. As an adult, he became a strong advocate for children with learning disabilities after discovering that he, himself, had dyslexia.

In addition, Beth Sugerman, Head of Winston Preparatory School in Norwalk, Connecticut, received the 2015 Community Service Award.

In his remarks, Alex Bloch, a senior at Winston Prep, described Beth Sugerman as a “life-changer” and a different kind of educator. “Somehow she is capable of dedicating her time to helping every student at Winston,” he said. “No one has had a bigger impact on furthering my education. She has taught me that I’m not stupid. I just learn differently and I can succeed.”

Master of Ceremonies Congressman Jim Himes also credited Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities for giving parents “hope, resources and a sense that they are not alone in dealing with something that we parents know must be a heartbreaking challenge.”

He also stated that the key to America’s success relies on our ability to educate all children, including those with learning disabilities.

“Every problem we deal with, certainly the economic problems of jobs and how to be a more competitive country, comes down to the question of whether we give those children the tools to succeed, whether we educate each and every American child to live up to his or her potential,” he said. “Our competition, our prosperity – it’s all about education.”

The Pinnacle Sponsor for the Benefit Gala was Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes of Darien, CT. The Southfield Center for Development, also based in Darien, was the Leader Sponsor. Other sponsors included Literacy How of North Haven, Eagle Hill Greenwich, Eagle Hill Southport, Winston Preparatory School of Norwalk, CT, Gen Re, Marc Hoffman – LD Advocate, and The Soifer Center for Learning and Child Development.

About Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, Inc.
Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, Inc. is a Westport-based nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the parents of children with learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit disorders (ADHD) via its educational programs, award-winning website and blog, and free e-newsletter at The organization also educates the public about these children’s gifts and talents. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is an Honorary Board member and Henry Winkler, Golden Globe award-winning actor, director and author, serves as the organization’s Honorary Chairman.

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Jane Ross
Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities
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