The Giving Fund donation goes to a Stamford High student caring for his autistic brother

STAMFORD — Hendly Pernier struggled more than most high schoolers.

The 16-year-old Haiti native juggles studying and extracurricular activities such as athletics with caring for her 6-year-old autistic brother when their mother is at work.

The family struggles to make ends meet and Pernier is unable to help them financially due to his busy schedule.

This holiday season, the family got relief, in the form of a $500 check from the Giving Fund, a joint venture of the Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time and local nonprofit and person-to-person family centers.

“I was surprised and shocked at first,” Pernier said when she received the check. “I was happy at the end. It was very helpful for me and my mother.

She said $200 went to her mother, while Pernier is saving the remaining $300 in hopes of using it to buy a camera to pursue photography.

Now in its 38th year, the Giving Fund tells the stories of local residents who need a helping hand.

Each case in the fund includes an estimated amount that would help a local individual or family with day-to-day challenges such as paying rent, childcare costs, and transportation. All the money goes directly to the people in the stories.

This year, the fund raised $97,000. Last year’s drive set a donation record, raising $113,000 from organizations and community members across the region.

Although the amount this year was not that high, it was still a larger sum than typical years, said Bill Brucker, Director of Family Centers Advancement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the number of cases at the Giving Fund, and Brucker said there were more cases submitted this year than ever before. The average for a typical year is around 100 to 120 cases, but there have been more than 220 submitted this holiday season, he said.

“People are still struggling to put food on the table and meet their basic needs,” Brucker said.

Pernier’s name was submitted to the fund by Emily Segal, director of adolescent behavioral health at Family Centers and clinical supervisor at Stamford High School’s School Health Center. Segal sends several donation requests to the Student Endowment Fund each year.

“It’s just a reliable source of support for kids who really have no other way to get that kind of support,” she said.

During her freshman year at Stamford High, Pernier sought advice and help from the school’s health center.

Segal said Pernier’s story is not uncommon.

“Coming from another country, really having no father to support her and an overworked mother, she was really ‘parentified,'” Segal said.

Pernier said her current schedule doesn’t allow her to work and earn money, but she hopes to change that this summer. Her desire is to attend Norwalk Community College after high school. She plans to study business and marketing and aspires to become an actress and writer.

She is also currently working on a book on women’s empowerment tentatively titled “Who’s Dramatic?”

Attending classes remotely when schools closed due to COVID-19 in 2020 was especially difficult for Pernier, as she also had to help her brother, Jayden Pernier.

“It was so bad,” she said, describing her experience of trying to help her younger brother pay attention and do his job while trying to take his own classes.

However, the challenges she faced did little to quell Pernier’s drive.

“The fact that she’s so resilient inspires everyone,” Segal said. “She’s a wonderful, wonderful child.”

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