SASI Executive Director Priscilla Arena. (Photo by Ed Shin)
Nearly 500 people attended the March for Change on Feb. 8 at Heckscher State Park in East Islip to honor the memory of Thomas Valva, an 8-year-old boy with autism who died of hypothermia after being left to sleep in an unheated garage overnight.
They came together to support Thomas’s mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, and to call for urgently changes to the system so that no other child would suffer the same injustice. The boy’s father and his father’s fiancee have pleased not guilty to second-degree murder and child endangerment in the case.
The march was organized by SASI (Specialized Autism Support & Information), and went from noon until 3 p.m. Members from several organizations that help children, a number of elected officials, and many parents, grandparents, and community members all braved the cold and the wind to express outrage at the flawed system that impacts millions of children and families and allows devastating harm.
The march took place after some brief speeches. Justyna Zubko-Valva spoke of the promise she made to her Tommy, that we are not going to stop until changes are made and all children are safe, leaders from SASI spoke about protecting children, especially the most vulnerable ones, and several elected officials spoke of renewing and furthering their efforts to make necessary changes to the system and fix the problems.