PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Nick Lombardi, class of 2017, promoted autism awareness during his first year as a Manhattanville College student through the sale of a button he created with the slogan “I’m not misbehaving. I have Autism. Please be Understanding.”
Lombardi came up with the slogan and developed the idea for his brother Joey, who was diagnosed at an early age with autism. Soon he realized that the buttons could benefit people other than Joey, and he partnered with Autism Speaks to sell the buttons online. Since then, his buttons have become a major hit.
“I always felt that if people just knew Joey had autism, it would be a little different. People wouldn’t judge him as quickly,” said Lombardi, who began selling the buttons at age 11. “My slogan has been trademarked, and my buttons are sold all over the world. With the sale of these buttons I have donated over $80,000 to Autism Speaks and other autism organizations.”
He sees his button supporting autism awareness in three different ways: providing understanding and compassion for children with autism; raising money for the cause; and encouraging people who are not directly affected by autism to spread awareness.
Since coming to Manhattanville, he has been able to do even more for autism awareness. In April, he set up a booth in Manhattanville’s Commuter Lounge to sell his buttons. He was surprised at how many people bought buttons and donated to Autism Speaks. “It really showed me how Manhattanville is a connected community that cares,” he said.
He also began to sell his buttons in local stores. “This year during Autism Awareness month (April) I expanded my work by getting my buttons into a few popular stores in Westchester County, including DeCicco Supermarket and Stagioni Pizzeria in Ardsley and Cherry Lawn Farm Market in Scarsdale,” said Lombardi, who has been volunteering with special needs children for more than eight years.
Lombardi is starting his sophomore year at Manhattanville this fall and hopes to major in special education and business. “It’s a pleasure being at Manhattanville and being able to work for so many years with people with special needs. Being an advocate is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”