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.
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 the Watertown Board of Education while running a successful direct sales business.
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.
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.
Stacey Salvietti is a teacher, with a masters’ degree in special education, who has been teaching pre-k children with a variety of disabilities for 25 years. She has been a friend of the Faressa family for many years and a supporter of Sun, Moon & Stars since day one.
Heather is a fellow Watertown resident and friend. She is Community Development Manager for the American Cancer Society, overseeing large scale fundraising events and volunteer management. Heather has more than a decade of fundraising and event management experience and has successfully executed more than 40 events.
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.
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 son was diagnosed with ASD and sensory integration disorder shortly before he turned 2. He is our fourth child and it was very clear to us that he was unique and we were unable to use the traditional parenting techniques that we relied on for years.People kept telling us we "had to meet a lady named Christine." We happened to go to dinner at Gayle's Depot Square Farm Shop on a Friday night. And that was the day that we met.
We’ve made great friends -- people that understand our family, our joys, our sorrows, the excitement of trying a new food, the progress of using paint or touching sticky tape, the hard days, the stimming, all of it. They get it.
Sun, Moon & Stars has allowed us to feel connected again… there is always an activity going on, families share information and, most importantly, there are families to listen and provide a support system. The best advice I can lend is to get connected, show up, and talk to other families. If you're not a talker, listen. That's all it takes.
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.
Sun, Moon & Stars brings us a sense of belonging, community, and inclusion. Our six-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.”
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?