The Carino's Foundation

April 25, 2012

Melissa Winter
Founder, The Puzzling Piece

Melissa Winter is a mom on mission. The mother of a 7-year-old boy with autism, Melissa knows the needs and challenges families like hers face each day. She also understands how difficult it can be for schools and organizations to fundraise. With all of this in mind, a degree in jewelry design and a desire to get involved, Melissa created The Puzzling Piece. The Puzzling Piece is a charity that has raised much-needed funds for non-profits and has put almost 250 iPads in the hands of deserving families. 

When Melissa’s son Max was diagnosed with autism six years ago, she was in denial. While Max is now content in his mainstream first-grade classroom, it took enrolling in different schools and extracurricular activities to get to this comfortable place. As the family moved with Max from place to place, Melissa had frequent opportunities to meet other families living autism, as well as the educators, therapists and others who have dedicated their careers to changing lives. The more people Melissa met, the more she realized there was a need for special programs and services. So when her son’s school’s fundraising galas just weren’t bringing in enough money, she stepped up and created unique puzzle piece jewelry designs and sold them to help the school meet its goal. Three years later, The Puzzling Piece is only growing stronger.

Through The Puzzling Piece, individuals can purchase unique autism awareness jewelry, designed by Melissa herself. After covering her expenses, she donates all proceeds to charities that promote autism awareness and support, such as the Autism Society.

In addition to supporting autism charities and spreading awareness through her beautiful jewelry, Melissa created the iPad challenge to help families get iPads. For some individuals on the autism spectrum, the iPad has proven to have communication and educational benefits. Her efforts have made a world of difference, as the families who receive iPads from her write in their countless thank you emails.

It is through her selflessness and drive to help others that Melissa Winter should be recognized as a Carino’s Autism Champion!