“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” a famous adage spoken by the great Mahatma Gandhi that still rings true today. When owner of Asti Italian Restaurant, Richard Tumino opened his doors to families with members on the autism spectrum for a family meal, he did just that, he affected change for a group that often is overlooked. It is an imperative part of being a local, small town business owner to take on the challenges of the community and show them you care. Not only is it good for business, but it is good for the public at large. He didn’t just give about 40 or so families, an opportunity to have a free meal, but he also gave them the chance to replace the stress of taking their family members out in public with the repose of fellowship and community. These families got the chance to just breathe and know the other people filling the seats are quite aware of the struggles they deal with.
Taking your children out for a meal can be stressful for any parent. There are always a list of things parents have on their minds, from food allergies, to whether or not little Johnny had his nap today; but for parents with children on the autism spectrum, their list is much longer and far more complicated. Imagine having to worry about not just the intricacies of your child but also the concerns of bystanders when your autistic child is talking loudly or flapping his arms, the looks, the inappropriate comments, and even more how those actions from others may shame you or your child. For parents like Jessica and David Bumbolo, of Utica, these things are regular concerns everywhere they go.
This is why the owners of Asti Italian Restaurant stepped in and made a real difference for families just like theirs. They took the opportunity to build community, to reach out to a group that is often overlooked and gave them a safe space to gather without any worry of shaming looks or comments. This also affected the children who were allowed to just be themselves, who were for once in a situation where they weren’t singled out, or ostracized because of things far out of their control. This is what the community needs. This is what the country needs more of and hopefully other business owners can take a page from Tumino’s book and become the change this town needs to see.