Scotch Plains Girl Fighting Autism — One Cupcake at a Time
Inspired by her brother, 10-year-old Mallory Banks has raised more than $2,000 for Autism New Jersey, joining the cause her parents have been working with for a decade.
At age ten, Mallory Banks has already become a leader in her community, eagerly working to raise money for a cause very near to her heart. In honor of Autism Awareness month, Mallory, a fourth grader at McGinn and an Autism New Jersey Junior Ambassador, raised $1,700 by holding a bake sale on April 21 at Parker Gardens in Scotch Plains.
“I want to find a cure for my brother Ethan,” she said. “He has autism and I love him very much. I know he loves me back.”
Mallory and her mother Gina reached out to numerous friends, family members and McGinn classmates for help baking cupcakes, cookies and other desserts to sell at Parker Gardens. To help Mallory raise more funds for Autism Awareness, Parker Gardens donated 5 percent of the profits made from all herb, vegetable, and fruit plants sold that day.
In addition to the bake sale, Mallory also organized a raffle. Local vendors including Fabio’s Bistro, Fanwood Bagel, Guillotine Salon and Spa, Tinga, Frank’s Auto Body, Martine Avenue Deli, Roman Boutique, Sun Tavern and Stage House donated goods and services to be raffled off.
“When I found out I had raised $1,700, I felt really good,” Mallory said. “I want to keep on doing this as long as I can. Ethan is a really great brother. I wanted to raise money for Autism New Jersey so that one day he can wake up and not be sick anymore.”
Mallory’s journey to raise money to benefit Autism New Jersey began a year ago, when she organized her first bake sale, raising $500 in two days by selling baked goods at her soccer games. Mallory’s parents, Jeff and Gina Banks have been active with Autism New Jersey ever since Ethan was diagnosed with Autism when he was two years old.
“We have had such an overwhelming support from the community,” Jeff Banks said. “It’s not just about raising money — it’s about raising awareness. In addition to baked goods, we also gave out pamphlets and information about autism so that those who donated know where the money goes.”
According to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 49 children in New Jersey are diagnosed with autism. As the loving parents of Ethan, their 12-year-old autistic son, Jeff and Gina are fierce advocates for raising awareness, providing education, and raising funds for new treatments and programs that help autistic children and families.
“Raising children with special needs on a daily basis can be very challenging, but Ethan’s achievements and his growth are our rewards,” Jeff said. “And his little speed bumps in learning are our mountains. He is a very loveable child. We try to engage him in every life experience.”
“And give him our support and our love,” Mallory added.
As longtime supporter of Autism New Jersey, Jeff was able to shed light on how each dollar donated to the organization benefits real families. He explained that buying a cupcake from Mallory or donating to the organization directly not only funds grants for special programs and research for developing new therapies; it also funds education and outreach efforts.
“When Ethan was diagnosed, we wanted to learn as much as could so that we could be our own advocates and help raise awareness,” Jeff said. “Nobody has New Jersey beat when it comes to raising awareness and providing opportunities for these families.”
On June 9, Jeff, an industrial engineer, and Gina, a Warren Middle School English teacher, will participate in Autism New Jersey’s Ride for Autism for the seventh year in a row, biking as many as 35 miles to raise money for the cause. The one-day charity ride begins at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft with courses ranging from 10 to 100 miles.
Last year, the two parents raised nearly $2,000 in one ride and were honored by the Gov. Christie for doing so. Inspired by her parents’ accomplishments, Mallory is planning on riding a seven-mile course for the cause this year.
“Now I just need a new bike,” Mallory said.
April — Autism Awareness Month — may have come to a close, but help is still needed. To learn more about how to contribute to Autism New Jersey, or for more information on autism click here.