Brooklyn Heights seniors sponsor ‘life-changing’ therapy for Texas boy with autism

brooklyn heights watermark residents with boy whose autism therapy they sponsored
Residents of the Watermark in Brooklyn Heights helped raise money to pay for 10-year-old James DePauw’s therapy for autism.
Photo courtesy of Watermark for Kids

A Texas couple said they are “extremely grateful” to the Brooklyn Heights seniors who helped raise funds for their son with autism to stay in New York while undergoing an intensive therapy program.

James DePauw, who recently completed his two-week program at The Melillo Center For Developing Minds in Long Island, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age two and is non-verbal, requiring assistance with everyday activities.

“James is a super sweet, loving little boy. However, he faces many challenges because he has a lot of sensory underdevelopment in his brain,” said Laurie DePauw, James’ mother.

Laurie told Brooklyn Paper that it had been difficult to find providers locally in Euless, Texas, who could adequately treat 10-year-old James. 

After doing some research, the DePauws said they became familiar with the work of Dr. Robert Melillo, whose treatment center uses a holistic approach to treating patients with a broad spectrum of brain-related disorders, including autism spectrum disorder.

“I don’t think there’s any way without robbing a bank that we could have made it happen,” said Laurie of the cost of the treatment and travel expenses which were not covered under their insurance plan. The DePauws applied to Watermark for Kids, a national nonprofit associated with Watermark Retirement Communities, for support after learning about the organization through another family who received their financial assistance.

Residents of The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights, a luxury retirement community located in the former Leverich Towers Hotel at 21 Clark St., sponsored the family’s stay and held fundraising events in conjunction with the national charity to cover the cost of the treatment.

“We were so happy to provide James and his family a place to stay while they are here in New York,” said Rocco Bertini, Executive Director of The Watermark at Brooklyn Heights. “Our residents are some of the most kind and generous individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and it brings them great joy to give back in this way.”

James and his parents were able to meet and mingle with some of the residents at an ice cream social held by the Watermark while the DePauws were in town. James and his sister also got to take in the Manhattan skyline while swimming at the center’s rooftop pool.

ice cream social in brooklyn heights
Residents met James and his family at an ice cream social during his stay in New York. Watermark for Kids

“When we found Dr. Melillo, we were incredibly hopeful that this treatment would give us forward momentum in James’ healing journey,” Laurie said, adding that she tried to make the most of the two week treatment plan and asked staff at The Melillo Center every question she could think of.

“Now that we’re home, we’ve got a pretty extensive home program that we’re doing with James that replicates a lot of what they were doing in the center. The idea of doing an intensive course is you can get a springboard effect where you’re going to get a greater progress gain, and then you can continue to build on that,” she said.

“Our long-term goal is that James could function like a normal ten-year-old boy and go to school and play sports or learn an instrument. We believe this treatment can change his life and we’re so thankful to Watermark for Kids and Dr. Melillo for their part in his journey.”

Since its foundation in 2007, Watermark for Kids says it has supported more than 2,800 children nationwide by providing financial assistance in education, sports and fine arts, and health and well-being. The organization has also donated more than $1.15 million to help kids aged 6-22 overcome barriers and access life-enhancing opportunities.