Marissa Hacker’s brother Matthew is autistic, and she saw how socially isolated he was growing up in Voorhees, NJ. She dreamed of a comfortable, easy environment where he could hang out with friends and enjoy himself, and she decided to create one. She was just 15!!
Young or old, Age is not a barrier to making the world a better place.
Now 21, Fantastic Friends is alive and well, and continues to host monthly social functions for friends (members with special needs) and volunteer friends (peer volunteers).
“Our teen-led chapters help people with special needs gain confidence about being in a group, while sharing ideas, hopes, and dreams, in an accepting environment,” Marissa Hacker
The organization has raised $30,000 to support activities involving 500 participants, volunteers, siblings, and parents — it’s one of the top 100 special needs social groups in the United States. Marissa recently received a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, which recognizes the next generation of philanthropic visionaries and provides them with support and resources in their drive to make the world a better place.
Next up for Fantastic Friends? Convincing Bruno Mars to come to their Prom!
Enjoy this fantastically FUN video. Well done too!
When Marissa was interviewed in for the online publication, JewishExponent.com, they asked:
Q: Is there anything you would tell your 15-year-old self now?
A: “I would tell myself not to worry so much because everything always works out. I would tell myself not to be nervous about anything.”
Interested in starting a chapter in your area? Get in touch! This is a group dynamic worth sharing.
Interestingly, on the heels of editing this article to share, we just last night watched a very well produced movie on an autistic young woman, played by Dakota Fanning, titled Please Stand By.
“I would tell my [younger] self not to worry so much because everything always works out.”