Posts in 2007
Francis Bendu

Francis and Francess Bendu of Hyattsville, Md., are thrilled that their 9-year-old son, Francis Bendu, Jr. will receive a voice-output device from The Eric Fund to help him better communicate at home and in school and be in better touch with the world around him. 

Francis, who was diagnosed with autism when he was almost two years old, has limited verbal communication but will use the device to talk with his family and friends and share his thoughts and feelings with others. Francis’s school speech-language pathologist, Angela Mezzomo, worked with the Bendus to complete The Eric Fund application. “We have been trying to get a piece of equipment for Francis for over a year, but everyone else told us no. We were taking a shot in the dark with The Eric Fund and hoping you would understand what a kid like Francis needs,” says Mezzomo. 

Francis’s parents are looking forward to Francis communicating his thoughts and feelings more regularly with the entire family, including Francis’s older siblings, ages 27, 24 and 21, who regularly help care for and work with him. When Francis is not at school, he enjoys watching The Disney Channel, especially “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” and playing with his toys. The Bendus are dedicated to providing the best for their son and helping him learn the skills he needs to be more independent. “This will open a whole new world for him. This will change his life,” says Francis’s mother, Francess. “I am so grateful.”

2007Nate Nashawardee
Emilia Prokop

Emilia Prokop, 21, is an ambitious young woman from Haymarket, Va., who has been awarded a laptop computer and Dragon to Speak software from The Eric Fund so she can communicate better and pursue her dream of helping children with disabilities. 

Emilia came to the United States at age 7, adopted from Romania thanks to guidance Emilia’s mother, Martha, received personally from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Martha was working between Virginia and Rome, Italy, for a priest who did some work with Mother Teresa. When Emilia’s parents found out they could not have children, Mother Teresa advised Martha to go to Romania where many children had been rescued by the church and were living in orphanages.  Mother Teresa told her to go there and find a child who looked Russian  because Martha’s husband was of Russian  decent.  Martha said as soon as she saw Emilia, who looked much like her husband, she knew she found her daughter. 

Emilia had been neglected and starved since birth and looked as if she were between 4-10 years old when the Prokops met her. She was 7.  

Those early years of neglect led to a speech/ language disability, stunted growth, and gross/ fine motor disabilities.  But with the support of a loving family, Emilia just “graduated” from high school with a certificate of attendance and will be home schooled to complete her high school diploma.  She also just received an “Alumni of the Year” award by the Youth Leadership Forum of Virginia, sponsored by the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities.  

Emilia is a whiz with computers, but  unfortunately when she graduated from high school, her computer had to remain with the school system. Emilia is looking forward to the computer and software provided by The Eric Fund. She is excited the equipment will enable her to finish her studies, communicate better eventually to find a job and pursue her dream of training service animals for children with  disabilities.

2007Nate Nashawardee