We had the good fortune of connecting with Jen Coats and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jen, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
When my son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, he immediately started services in speech, occupational therapy, and ABA. I felt alone with his diagnosis and felt that immediate friends and family couldn’t truly understand what we were going through. After we settled into all of the appointments, therapy, and so forth, we met families just like us and it was a very welcoming and accepting community. Once our kids turned 4, it was time for them to move on to kindergarten, our community had to move on as well because we lived in different zip codes, therefore; different schools. When our son, Nolan started kindergarten, I wanted to start a small group at his school and meet new families that had kiddos with autism, hoping to start an Autism Group. My husband and I started the LBC Hero Squad in 2016, raising money so we can educate students and staff about autism/special needs and promote kindness. Our school encouraged and supported our idea and felt that it was needed since we have a Special Day Class program at Cubberley Elementary K-8. Our goal was that our kiddos with special needs can feel included and accepted in school and that teachers would be able to be proactive and have the tools needed when a child with autism is having a behavior, therefore; not assuming that the child is being identified as “bad”. After having our inaugural Autism Awareness Week event at Cubberley in April 2017 (Nolan was in 1st grade), we started meeting new families – just like us. Our small but mighty team grew each year. In 2018, we were invited to City Hall by our Mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia and Councilwoman, Stacy Mungo where we received a proclamation for our autism efforts. Other schools within LBUSD started their own Autism/Acceptance Week with our help. We never imagined that our group would turn into a business but we kept growing each year so we decided that our goal is to make us a non profit so we can help other families, like us; start their own movement at their school. Educating students and staff about autism/special needs. We also want to be a resource for families and promote events and activities. We feel the possibilities are endless for us and we look forward to creating more for our community.  

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Every year in April, we are given a week to educate students and staff about autism at our kids school, Cubberley. We provide materials, videos, books, swag, guest speakers, and activities. Our resources come from the autism community or small businesses in our community. In 2019, we raised enough money to be able to pay for guest speakers or motivational speakers, provide books for teachers to read about autism to their class, yoga instructors to teach yoga to over 1,000 students, and provide swag such as bracelets, stickers, and sell tee shirts that are designed from our theme of the year. On the first day, we give teachers, blue mason jars with flameless tea lights and a song to play to help set a positive week. We also decorate the campus in blue ribbon and vinyl banners promoting kindness and acceptance before autism week starts.  April 12th-16th, 2021 was our 4th annual AAW (Autism Awareness Week) and it was virtual since our school recently opened up for hybrid on March 29th.  Our AAW19 was cancelled due to the pandemic. A lot of work is involved to make it successful and we appreciate everyone who participates. Especially, our teachers who go above and beyond to include our activities into their schedules.  We receive full support from our Principal, Foundation, PTA, Faculty, and Staff.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Long Beach is our favorite city. It’s very diverse. A lot of mom and pop businesses that are truly unique. Our favorites: Sweet Threads, Frosted Cupcakes, The Pike Restaurant & Bar, And Then LB, Lord Windsor, Aquarium of the Pacific, El Dorado Frontier, Little Coyote, LB Thai, El Dorado Nature Center, Japanese Garden in CSULB, Queen Mary, Finger Prints Records, BYO Long Beach, Creative Flow Arts, and Play Long Beach, LBX Exchange/Hangar, Steelcraft, San Pedro, LB Creamery, Enriques, and HiroNori Ramen.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people and organizations that have supported us throughout my son’s journey of autism. We are forever grateful for their efforts, education, support, and love. Some we still keep in touch with and have become close friends. We would like to thank our friends and family, autism community, Tichenor Orthopedic for Children with Disabilities, Our respite workers past and present, Children’s Music Fund, Askate, Advocates, LBUSD, City of LB, Stacy Mungo and team, Sumer Temple, Law Office of Michele Dobson, CAC, Harbor Regional Center, Alexandra Adlawan, Lemur Mom, 908 Magazine, Sweet Threads, COR Surf, Be The Change Coloring Co., Atlantic Meditation, Art by David Cheug, Tom Iland (motivational speaker), Vans, Ban.do, the Pike Restaurant and Bar, No Division Screen Printing, Mighty Printing, BOE Life, Boketto Cold Brew Coffee + Tea (DTLA), Power of One Karate (PCH), Capitol Records, The Greek Theater and ALL of our supporters. If I forgot to mention you, I am sorry. Got that mommy brain. A very special shoutout to our team, the LBC Hero Squad and all of our supporters. Without them, we could not be an organization. Every person on the squad brings a lot of heart, passion, love, resources, and great ideas. We are forever thankful for their friendship and support. None of us are as strong as all of us.

Website: lbcherosquad.org

Instagram: @lbcherosquad

Facebook: @lbcherosquad

Other: Shopping Site: https://lbcherosquad.square.site/

Image Credits
City of Long Beach – City Hall pictures Tasia Photos

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.