LEADERSHIP TEAM

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Christine Faressa, President & Chairman of the Board

Christine Faressa became the founder of Sun, Moon & Stars in Jan 2016 when she established a judgement-free Supper Club as a way for families with children on the autism spectrum to a enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. The Supper Club quickly grew into a support group for families and began offering many collaborative services and events. Her son, Domenic, continues to be her driving passion as she seeks to create a bright future for him and other children on the Autism Spectrum. Christine was an Advocacy Ambassador for Autism Speaks and was on the committee for the 10th Annual Autism Speaks Walk (June 1 in Waterbury, CT) – all while actively raising money as the Sun, Moon & Stars Autism Walk team captain. Christine has a masters’ degree in business administration and recently earned a certificate in financial management for non-profits. She has an extensive sales and marketing background with more than 19 years of experience in medical device sales.

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Mark Faressa, Vice-President & Treasurer

Mark Faressa co-founded Sun, Moon & Stars with his wife, Christine, and is an incredible part of its support system. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management and has an extensive background in purchasing and inventory management. Mark currently works for Swift Middle School while running a successful direct sales business. 

 

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Abbi Nori Nelson, Marketing Chair

Abbi Nori Nelson is a long-time friend of the Faressa family and has been an ardent supporter of Sun, Moon & Stars in this capacity since inception. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications. Abbi is a photographer and video producer with 20+ years of experience working at Fortune 500 companies in marketing leadership roles.

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Christine J. Miller, Secretary

A Faressa family friend for decades, Christine Miller brings to Sun, Moon & Stars more than 25 years of teaching and educational leadership experience. She has earned multiple honors, certifications, and degrees including a sixth-year degree in educational leadership, a masters’ of science, reading and language arts, and 2016 Teacher of the Year.

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Stacey Salvietti

Stacey has been a friend of the Faressa family for many years and a supporter of Sun, Moon & Stars since day one. She is a special education teacher,  and has been teaching pre-k children with a variety of disabilities for the past 27 years. Stacey has a master's degree in Early Childhood Special Education and was named Teacher of the Year in 2015.

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Stacey Lallier

Stacey has known the Faressa family for many years. She is a proud supporter of Sun, Moon & Stars and loves to volunteer at events. When her two children went to elementary school, Stacey became the Maloney Magnet School PTO President – a position she held for seven years. She then volunteered for several years as treasurer for THS Friends of Music and is now the Office Manager of DL Property Maintenance.

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Chloe Taylor Langer

Chloe Taylor Langer is a proud member and supporter of Sun, Moon & Stars. She, her husband and two young sons joined the group in early 2016 as it provides endless resources and opportunities for community involvement, especially for her son with Autism. Chloe is an attorney in Woodbury, CT, where she practices estate planning, probate, and real estate law.

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Jenn Harding, Member At Large

Jenn Harding is a proud member and supporter of Sun, Moon & Stars. She is a full-time single mom to her amazing son, Derek. Jenn organizes an annual autism walk to raise funds for Sun, Moon & Stars. She is a true advocate for autism and for spreading awareness. 

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Krista Palomba, Member At Large

Krista Palomba has been a volunteer with Sun, Moon & Stars since its inception, pitching in wherever she can. She has organized numerous charitable events and has been involved in many civic initiatives in the community. Krista has two daughters, who also love to participate in events.

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Katherine Montoya, Member At Large

Katherine Montoya’s daughter was diagnosed with autism and apraxia at 18 months. At the time, she knew nothing about autism. Then she met Christine Faressa. Sun, Moon & Stars has afforded Katherine a sense of purpose and her family a sense of normalcy. Everyone is welcome, no one is judged, and everyone helps and supports each other. She no longer feels alone in their journey. Originally from Colombia, Katherine migrated to the USA as a child, went on to graduate from the University of New Haven and, 15 years later, is still a Connecticut Parole Officer. She lives in Watertown with her husband and two daughters.

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Holly Hanecek, Member At Large

Holly Hanecak is a Watertown native and WHS graduate. She enjoys assisting the Starfish Swim Club and wants all children to be safe in the water. Holly believes her participation is rewarding and making the community better for all children because “kids are kids, no matter their need… they all want the same things.” Holly lives in Watertown with her husband of 18 years and three sons.

DONOR SPOTLIGHT

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JENNIFER HARDING

Founder of Walk for Derek, which raised thousands of dollars for Sun, Moon & Stars in August 2020

Derek is 9 years old. He was diagnosed with autism the day before his second birthday. Derek also has ADHD, ID, epilepsy, tourettes, is non-verbal and has chronic ear issues. 

For Jennifer, the hardest part of raising a child with special needs is the loneliness, worry and isolation. Jennifer constantly worries about Derek being lonely: being a single child in a single parent home, not having friends. She worries about kids not being nice to him because they don’t understand. Because even family members don’t understand their world. 

 

Jennifer and Derek’s world changed when she was referred to Sun,Moon & Stars and she met Christine Faressa. They BOTH now have friends -- friends that are more like family; friends who “have their backs” no matter how tough life gets; friends that are there to celebrate achievements from new foods to new words; friends that Jennifer can call for support when she feels the stress. 

Jennifer and Derek now have a support system and feel blessed to be part of Sun, Moon & Stars. 

OUR FAMILIES

Sun, Moon & Stars brings us a sense of belonging, community, and inclusion. Our ten year old daughter, Elizabeth, is fostering friendships that will last her lifetime. Having this group of people, who are going on the same journey as us, and facing the same issues as we do, is priceless. 

 

By surrounding Elizabeth with this group of children, her socialization and vocal skills have grown tremendously. She was diagnosed as non-verbal and needed to communicate with an IPAD. She can now hold conversations, and ask questions. She is happy every time we go to an event, and states, “I’m going to see my friends.” My eight year old neurotypical child Isabel has also learned to be tolerant and accepting of all her friends differences. Both my children are surrounded by love and acceptance and there is no better feeling in the world. 

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When Asa was 4 years and 1 month old [he] was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder without an Intellectual Disability. It confirmed what we had known deep in our hearts for a while, but it broke our hearts all the same. The biggest challenge that followed was to explain it to family and friends. The reactions were wildly mixed. Most were supportive, some were surprised and rejected the diagnosis telling us we should get another opinion, and a few “friends” faded into oblivion likely uncomfortable with the idea of maintaining a “difficult” relationship with us and our son. We did what so many parents do after such news and we went into proactive mode getting his IEP revised to ensure a continuity of full services including physical, occupational, speech and behavior therapy. We read and researched everything we could about "high-functioning autism". We busied ourselves, we “educated” our family and friends, we hunkered down and became an even tighter unit. And then, the crash came. I felt it first and then Jesse. We both harbored a deep sadness and overwhelming fear about this new world. We spoke to a family therapist who explained that we were experiencing the stages of grief. We were grieving the neuro-typical child we'd thought was ours and were slowly coming to terms with the life we’d lead with our special boy. We are now are surrounded by an incredible village of people who guide and inspire us.

 

We learn everyday about our child and marvel at his achievements. We have high standards for him. We recognize that many of his behaviors are due to his Autism but we also know that he is like any little boy pushing boundaries. We are firm but forgiving with him. We check in with each other because the stress is hard. Asa's little brother Leo is neuro-typical and that presents its own challenges and gifts. Asa adores Leo and vice versa. I believe their relationship will be one filled with love and strife like that of many siblings. We don't take anything for granted. Asa is our heartache and our pride. He wakes up every day happy, innocent and honest. He loves music and performing, reading and running, playing with his brother and going to school. He is affectionate and caring. This is his essence. He is learning at his own pace and will find his place in the world. It's our job to parent him with patience, strength, faith and understanding. And isn't that true for all parents of all children?

Madilyn, now 4, was diagnosed with autism when she was three years and nine months old. She is considered low functioning and is nonverbal, due to hearing issues, but we’re working on it both in and out of school. 

 

When Madi was diagnosed, I went searching for all kinds of information on autism and what I could be doing at home with her. I was very fortunate to find Sun, Moon, and Stars on Facebook and decided to send in a request to join this group (something I never really do). I went to my first parent support meeting with in June 2018 and immediately felt overwhelmed in a good way. 

 

Sun, Moon, and Stars has provided an abundance of activities that foster growth, learning, support, fun, and friendships for Madilyn. I, personally, have gained an extended family full of love, support, and friendships.

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Our family cannot express our gratitude enough for the ongoing support Sun, Moon & Stars has provided our son and our family. We struggled for years to find programs and activities that would meet the needs of our son on the Autism spectrum. We worried that he would not be able to participate in sports like his older sister had done. Sun, Moon & Stars changed all of that for him.

 

As a result of the programs Sun, Moon & Stars sponsors, he has been able to participate in soccer and swim. Sun, Moon & Stars also offers dozens of other activities throughout the year that we as a family can attend. It is such a relief to attend events knowing that we will not be judged if our son may say or do something that would be considered as not typical behavior. Again we cannot say thank you enough for this community.