Feature Photos

Haircuts offer hope for families dealing with autism

By From page A1 | June 20, 2012

Mrs. El Dorado County Holly Bialorucki, hugs her daughter Bonnie, 13, at the Maribou Salon where Holly and salon owner Jill Cromwell will host a Cut-A-Thon benefiting an organization that helps families deal with autism. Village Life photo by Shelly Thorene

Reigning Mrs. El Dorado County International Holly Bialorucki champions a cause close to her heart: treating autism in children.

On Sunday, June 24, Bialorucki will team up with Families for Early Autism Treatment  and Jill Cromwell of Maribou Salon to host a Cut-A-Thon fundraiser. Bialorucki’s platform as Mrs. El Dorado County includes raising autism awareness because of her personal experience. When her daughter Bonnie Bialorucki was 18 months old she stopped responding and developing normally, would not make eye contact and would not speak. It was as if the Holly and her husband Carl lost their precious baby.

“All of a sudden she completely slipped away,” Holly recalls.

Rather than give up the Bialorucki family enrolled their daughter in a special needs preschool and began in-home therapy.

“It was really hard to do the therapy… (her instructors were) demanding,” Holly explained. During this time, she added, people stopped inviting the Bialoruckis over or visiting them because Bonnie was so unpredictable: one moment shoving cake into her mouth and the next jumping into pools while still fully clothed.

Despite all the challenges Holly said, “We didn’t give up. It was exhausting but we kept doing it. I had no idea if what I was doing was helping or harming her. If I could give other parents some hope it will be all worth while.”

Their efforts paid off.

Bonnie, now 13 years old and a “South Park” and comedy television enthusiast, attends Rolling Hills Middle School and will enter the eighth grade in the fall. She said she aspires to become a voice-over actress and enjoys practicing voice-skits every day, hours at a time.

Bonnie said she credits her recovery to the treatment her parents diligently gave her when she was young. She encourages other parents with autistic children to persevere, as her parents did, and make the effort to get their children treatment. “Their parents shouldn’t give up on them just because they have autism,” she said. “I feel upset and angry when parents give up on their children like that. They have some potential. Have faith in your kids.”

Treating autism can be an expensive and lonely ordeal, as Holly knows well. She is committed to raising money to inspire awareness of autism and to encourage parents to get treatment for their children. FEAT, the benefitting non-profit for the Cut-A-Thon, is an “organization of parents, family members and treatment professionals dedicated to providing best outcome education, advocacy and support for the Northern California autism community.”

Holly was inspired to host the Cut-A-Thon by a friend. She said she thought it was a great idea at the time, but could not imagine a salon owner generous enough to host the fundraiser. Then she met Jill Cromwell, owner of Maribou Salon on Sutter Street in Folsom.

“All I did was tell her my story about Bonnie and everybody started crying,” Holly recalled.

“It was a touching story,” Cromwell said. “I have three kids and I would do anything for them.”

Cromwell offered the use of her salon for the fundraiser. “To me, that’s the true meaning of beauty,” Holly said.

Maribou Salon, 702 Sutter St. Suite 6, will be open June 24 from 1 to 4 p.m. for the fundraiser. Stylists will give customers free haircuts, and all donations will go to FEAT. For more information about the fundraiser call (916) 985-8800. To read about FEAT and its goals visit feat.org.

Megan Donnelly


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