We were delighted recently to see the story of Edward “E.J.” Collins and his relationship with the Frenchtown community featured on NJ.com.

E.J. is a Frenchtown native with autism who is a fixture in town, often seen on his bike towing a wagon filled with his “crew,” which includes Pokémon stuffed animals. After he lost both his parents in 2018, the community stepped in to care for him. Today, E.J. has earned a role as the town’s unofficial mayor.

E.J. also is an ArtYard friend who has been attending and volunteering at our events since our beginning. He just recently was the head guide lighting the way during our inaugural Aqualumina Festival.

“The community is always ready to lift [E.J.] up, and that’s a wonderful thing,” Eric Fiorito, ArtYard Production & Volunteer Manager, says in the video. “He’s a shining example for what can really happen in the world if people were just more kind.”

Thank you to Andre Malok from NJ.com for capturing and sharing this story, embedded below. And thank you to ArtYard Creative Director Elsa Mora for creating this illustration of E.J. in action.