2016 "Hope Saves the Day" Award Recipients.

This year 2 awards were given out at our 2nd Annual Casino Night Fundraiser.

Aimee LaSala - Head Coach, Team Hope

It is with great pride Autism Radio presents the 2016 “Hope Saves the Day Award” to Aimee LaSala for her leadership she renders to the Board, for her support, and advocacy of Autism Radio’s mission, and for her steadfast commitment to helping families and children who are struggling with Autism every day.

I am not one who likes to talk about myself, but here we go. Paul requested that I share a little of my background with you all. I come from a big family with five amazing siblings and two great and loving parents, who were always very patient with me while I found my purpose. 

My swimming career started at the young age of 4, I began to compete at the age of 5 for Pines Lake swim team. I swam with them until I graduated high school. I realized at the age of 15 when I started to teach swim lessons as a lifeguard that this was something I was good at and had a special knack for. 

It took me awhile to realize that teaching was my special gift. Not just teaching kids to swim but also teaching in school. The Wayne Board of education has given me a place in which to do that with main system and especially my special needs kids for the last 16 years. 

From the mix of my two worlds I have been given this wonderful opportunity to teach swimming to my younger darlings, and to my team, encourage their swimming and their team spirit. I have many parents thank me for how I have helped their child. I would like to take this chance to say thank you to all of them for intrusting me with their children and that I have become a better person and teacher because of all of them.

Thank you


Colleen O’Dea - Therapeutic Horseback Riding Instructor

It is with great pride Autism Radio presents the 2016 “Hope Saves the Day Award” to Colleen O’Dea for her leadership she renders to the Board, for her support, and advocacy of Autism Radio’s mission, and for her steadfast commitment to helping families and children who are struggling with Autism every day.

Colleen O’Dea had a passion for horses since she was as young as she can remember, and to pursue that passion, attended LSU as a pre-vet major. Due to financial considerations, she left school for a job in corporate sales at the age of 21. Her career blossomed and she quickly transferred into management. 

After spending almost 15 years in the corporate world, Colleen decided to follow her passion of horses and helping people. Always having the desire to own a horse, she purchased her first horse, Pralines N Cream, in 2005. Then in late 2009, Colleen left her corporate position to attend an instructor certification course at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding in Connecticut. A few months after returning with her Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification, she founded Equine Tranquility Wellness Center in May of 2010.  ETWC opened with three rescue horses that first year. Colleen also obtained her Centered Riding Instructor Certification in late 2010.  Over the years Colleen has focused on developing her training, teaching, and education, and currently she is enrolled in the United States Dressage Federation Instructor Certification Program.  Colleen enjoys every day being able to spend time with the horses, and being able to make a difference in the participants and their families’ lives.

Today ETWC serves 50-65 participants a week, and has 16 horses in the program. Within the therapeutic riding program, approximately 70% are diagnosed with Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder. Thanks to our partnership with Autism Radio, ETWC is able to assist with the costs of therapeutic riding to families who already struggle with so many financial obligations.

2015 "Hope Saves the Day" Award Recipients

3 people were given the award this year at our first Casino Night fundraiser.

John W. Bartlett

It is with great pride Autism Radio presents the 2015 “Hope Saves the Day Award” to John W. Bartlett for his leadership he renders to the Board, for his support, and advocacy of Autism Radio’s mission, and for his steadfast commitment to helping families and children who are struggling with Autism every day.

John W. Bartlett was elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2012. Currently, he chairs the Freeholders’ Planning & Economic Development Committee and serves as a member of the Budget Committee; the Administration, Finance and Personnel Committee; and the committee on Energy and Sustainability. He also serves as Passaic County’s representative on the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), which oversees an annual budget of $2 billion for transportation planning and improvements for 6.6 million New Jerseyans from Ocean County to the New York and Pennsylvania borders. He is also a member of the Board of Social Services, whose programs provide essential support to Passaic County’s neediest children, families, and seniors. 

Educated at Harvard Law School, Freeholder Bartlett is a Partner in Murphy Orlando LLC. His practice includes complex commercial litigation, appellate litigation, estate litigation, election and campaign finance law, and litigation and counseling for tax exempt organizations. 

Before attending law school, Freeholder Bartlett received a B.A. degree with honors from Brown University and was a Raoul Wallenberg Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

From 2009 to 2013, Freeholder Bartlett served as the founding Chairman of the Board of Friends of Passaic County Parks. Under his leadership, the foundation launched a summer concert series and developed opportunities for local residents to sponsor memorial benches, trees, plaques, and other commemorations for lost loved ones. 


Lourdes Cortez

It is with great pride Autism Radio presents the 2015 “Hope Saves the Day Award” to Lourdes Cortez for her leadership she renders to the Board, for her support, and advocacy of Autism Radio’s mission, and for her steadfast commitment to helping families and children who are struggling with Autism every day.

Cortez began her professional banking career in 1984 at North Jersey Federal Credit Union. She learned banking from the ground floor up, first as a financial services representative, then as a mortgage officer, a loan department supervisor and loan collections manager. She was later promoted to vice president of operations and in 2004, was named senior vice president. She was appointed president and CEO In 2005.

Dedicated to being involved in the community, Cortez serves on the board of the Workforce Investment Board of Passaic County, as President of the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic, and on the board of Visions Academy Charter School in Newark.  She is the chairperson for the North Jersey Federal Credit Union Foundation and assistant treasurer for Executive Women of New Jersey. She has volunteered for numerous organizations including La Casa De Don Pedro, the March of Dimes, Eva’s Village in Paterson, and the American Cancer Society, and served on the board of the United Way of Passaic County.

The first Latina CEO of a credit union in New Jersey, Cortez has been honored by NJ BIZ magazine, which named her one of the Top Fifty Business Women of New Jersey. Other awards include the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce 2010 Star Award in Business, the 2010 Salute to the Policy Makers Award from Executive Women of New Jersey, and the 2012 Women of Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey.

She is former president of the Northern Chapter of the New Jersey Credit Union League and a member of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Network of Latino Credit Union Professionals, and the North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce.


Pasquale “Pat” Lepore

It is with great pride Autism Radio presents the 2015 “Hope Saves the Day Award” to Pasquale “Pat” Lepore for his leadership he renders to the Board, for his support, and advocacy of Autism Radio’s mission, and for his steadfast commitment to helping families and children who are struggling with autism every day.

Pasquale “Pat” Lepore was first elected to the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2004 and subsequently reelected in 2007 and 2010. His past service includes four terms as the Mayor of Woodland Park and a term on the Borough Council.

Freeholder Lepore’s commitment to Passaic County has been recognized by many public, private, and civic organizations. This includes service on the Woodland Park Planning Board, Municipal Alliance, the Alfred H. Baumann Library Board, The Office of Emergency Management, The West Paterson Boys & Girls Club, Passaic County Board of Social Services, Camp Hope Commission, and the Board of Education Bond Referendum Committee. 

In 2013, Freeholder Lepore served as the Chairman of the Law & Public Safety Committee and is a member of the Health & Education Committee and the Finance & Administration Committee. He is on the Passaic County Technical Institute and Passaic County Community College Boards of School Estimate, which oversees both institutions’ budgets.

Freeholder Lepore helped spearhead fiscal initiatives resulting in two credit upgrades to Passaic County’s bond ratings from Moody’s Financial Services, an independent credit rating agency. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings on interest payments and debt service for Passaic County taxpayers. Freeholder Lepore’s fiscal stewardship has allowed our county government to rein in costs, increase efficiencies, and more effectively share services.