Teens diplay their charms among celebrities
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent March 3, 2013 10:51PM
Dylan Lord (left) of Joliet and Ronnie Fredericks of Morris hand create Wine Steward charms at Easter Seals. | submitted photo
Updated: April 5, 2013 6:06AM
Two local teens with high-functioning autism stretched their social skills in a big way by working a booth at the Red Carpet Celebrity Style Lounge, a product expo designed for celebrities three days before the Academy Awards.
From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 21, Ronnie Fredericks, 19, of Morris and Dylan Lord, 19, of Joliet introduced themselves to such Hollywood personalities as Paula Abdul and Eric Roberts and asked them, “Would you like a wine charm?”
Ryan and Dylan had made the charms for The Wine Steward L.L.C. in Orland Park as part of a 16-member student/adult client team at Easter Seals Autism Therapeutic School and Adult Vocational Program in Tinley Park.
This program generates meaningful vocational training and spending income for the boys, while developing their fine motor skills. Charms were also shipped to California for inclusion in the gift bags for those attending the Academy Awards.
“Jacki Weaver, the nominee for Best Supporting Actress for ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ has a son named Dylan,” said Pam Lord of Joliet, Dylan’s mother. “So she kept hugging him and calling him ‘sweetheart.’ ”
Kelly Ann Ohde, micro-enterprise coordinator with Harry’s Buttons at Easter Seals, said the company’s owner, Marge McConville, partnered with Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago in 2011 when orders for The Wine Steward device began piling up. This kept manufacturing local and helped provide vocational training for individuals with autism.
The Wine Steward has a drip collar and cork/cap holder as well as a reversible charm featuring sayings such as “Cheer” and “Congratulations.” The products, handmade with Swarvorski crystal, were designed by a waitress that found it awkward to serve wine from screw-capped bottles.
“The restaurant was moderately upscale with linen table cloths,” Ohde said. “Although the wines were excellent selections, the screw-caps diminished the ambiance. The Wine Steward was made not only to hold corks and screw-caps to the bottle, but it caught the drips that ran down the bottle after pouring. The crystals and charms made it fun.”
Last year, McConville contacted Secret Room Events, which presents the Red Carpet Celebrity Style Lounge, but it was too late for the wine accessory to be included in the celebrity gift bags. This year, Ohde said, Secret Room Events not only contacted McConville, it waived the sponsorship fee because individuals with autism hand-create the product.
Ronnie and Dylan, along with McConville and Lord, attended the event. That’s because, Ohde said, both boys were over 18, had worked on the project the longest and had produced the largest amount of charms. Furthermore, Lord added, the boys are best friends.
“It’s very rare for people with autism to have a relationship like that,” Lord said. “Dylan has been there for 10 years and Ronnie for six years, but over the last year and half, as they matured, they developed their friendship.”
On Wednesday, the day before they worked the expo, the boys received a tour of Warner Bros. Studios and sat on the couch from the set of “Friends.” On Friday, two actresses — Haley Pullos from “General Hospital” and Megan Wright from Nickelodeon — invited Ronnie and Dylan for pizza.
Unfortunately, Ronnie was leaving for home that day but Dylan, who was staying with Lord until Sunday to visit family and friends, could attend. Lord, sitting at a distance, felt so thrilled for her son, she cried. It was Dylan’s first friendly date, an outing other teens often take for granted.
“Afterward, Dylan said his heart felt funny,” Lord said. “It was the first time he ever experienced that little flutter when you like someone.”