When her younger brother was diagnosed with autism last year, Nova Shek quickly became his biggest supporter.
So when the sixth grader at Candlewood Middle School noticed that 4-year-old Zen's classmates at Building Blocks Developmental Preschool in Commack were sharing just a few iPads, which have become an integral tool in helping children with autism communicate, she took action.
"My husband and I explained to her that it wasn't an easy thing to obtain," Tina Shek said of her daughter, who had seen the help an iPad was providing her brother. "They are a very expensive product and she said, 'That shouldn't be a reason that other kids shouldn't have it.'"
So the 11-year-old, using some of her birthday money to buy supplies, made chocolate puzzle piece lollipops and sold them for $1 each. Six months later, with the money she raised, Nova donated two iPads to Building Blocks.
"I thought people like chocolate and the puzzle piece represents autism and is on most of the signs and posters so when I saw it at the store, I thought maybe I could make it," Nova explained. "That's how I came up with the idea."
Her parents, needless to say, are beaming over their daughter's hard work.
"I'm really proud of her because she's become such a passionate person about autism," Tina Shek said of Nova, who was recently named to the Autism Speaks Youth Leadership Council for her efforts. "She has become a huge advocate and it just overwhelms me. I'm very proud of her."
Nova, who got some help from people who chose to pay a bit more than $1 for their lollipop, said she was surprised with how quickly she was about to collect enough money for two iPads.
"I'm just happy it didn't take that long," said Nova.
Surely, the students at Building Blocks would agree.