Nonprofit founder honored with autism award
Sarah Rintamaki, founder and executive director of Connecting for Kids (CFK) of Westlake, is being honored at the Milestones 12th Annual Autism Spectrum Disorder Conference in June for her mission to provide education and support for families who have concerns about their child’s development.
“Sarah’s energy, passion and vision led to the creation of this vital organization [CFK] and is what sustains it,” Andrew Mangels, director of Westlake Porter Public Library, wrote when he nominated Rintamaki. “She is, quite simply, a hero to hundreds of families whose lives have changed for the better because of her efforts.”
Rintamaki will be awarded the Parent Tribute Award in recognition of the impact her work with Connecting for Kids is having in our community. She started CFK to help moms like her. When her two-year-old son had a speech delay and couldn’t even say “mama,” she was overwhelmed with doctor and specialist appointments.
"It was very overwhelming to try to find the ‘right’ therapies and programs for my son. I searched the internet every night until I was exhausted,” Rintamaki said. “Then I started to find other moms of kids who were struggling and together we helped each other find information and programs. We also helped each other to realize that we weren't the only parents of a child who struggled."
In 2011 Rintamaki launched CFK, so that she could give to other moms what those moms gave to her. In just over two years, CFK has had more than 2,000 participants from Cleveland’s westside communities. The organization focuses on families with children from birth to 12 years of age who have some concern about their child's development, serving all children including children with and without a formal diagnosis such as ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“Sarah brings not only her business savvy but her own personal experience as a parent to building Connecting for Kids,” said Ilana Hoffer Skoff, Milestones executive director and co-founder. “She is always thinking about the challenges parents face and ways to help parents connect with each other.”
The conference will be held June 18-19 at the Cleveland I-X Center and will feature more than 75 educational workshops for parents and professionals.