Ronnie Fredericks and Dylan Lord were going to be ready when they got on an airplane Wednesday morning.
Packing movies for the flight to California? Check.
Getting tuxedos? Check.
“I gotta look good,” Ronnie said Sunday. “With the celebrities, you’ve got to look top notch.”
All the prep work was to be ready for their red carpet debut, which was scheduled for Thursday.
The two — Ronnie, 19, is from Morris, Dylan, also 19, is from Joliet — were set to depart at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday for Hollywood, where they were to rub elbows with A-list celebrities at the 2013 Red Carpet Celebrity Style Lounge in honor of the 85th Academy Award nominees and presenters. They were accompanied by several teachers and Dylan’s mother, Pamela.
Besides showing off the handmade wine bottle accessories they make at their Tinley Park-based school, the two were to escort celebrities and serve as ambassadors for Easter Seals, this year’s Charity of Choice for the event.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us,” Ronnie said.
The story behind this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity begins with the two best friends, who met at Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago in Tinley Park, where they attend a specialized therapeutic day school for people with autism.
Easter Seals defines autism as a developmental disability considered the result of a neurological condition affecting normal brain function, development and social interactions.
At the Easter Seals school, Dylan and Ronnie are among the students involved in Harry’s Buttons, a business that produces buttons, key chains and magnets. Starting in 2011, The Wine Steward in Orland Park became a client, and students learned how to make the business’s wine bottle accessory, which include Swarovski crystals, that serve as a drip collar and cork/cap holder.
Those wine bottle charms were in the “swag bags” the stars got at the Red Carpet Celebrity Style Lounge, which was presented by Secret Room Events.
Kelly Anne Ohde, manager of Harry’s Buttons, said the owner of The Wine Steward, Marge McConville, had contacted a celebrity gifting firm last year, but was too late to get her product into the swag bags. But she succeeded in getting the charms into the bags this year, “and when she told them the story about what she is doing with Easter Seals, they waived the fee for sponsorship,” Ohde said.
Easter Seals was also chosen as this year’s Charity of Choice for the event, which means the organization had a table at the event, where they can talk about what the organization does, accept donations and ask celebrities to film public service announcements to bring awareness to Easter Seals and Autism.
The two friends hoped one of the fringe benefits of being chosen to represent Easter Seals would be getting to meet some of their favorite movie stars: Dylan said he wanted to meet Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning and Hugh Jackman, while Ronnie wants to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger.
For their parents, their sons’ opportunity to hobnob with stars is a benefit of the amazing friendship Dylan and Ronnie have developed.
The two were born just three and a half weeks apart, said Tammy Youskevtch, Ronnie’s mother, although they meet a few years ago.
“It’s kind of like they are twins born to other mothers. They are so similar,” Youskevtch said. “They seem to, besides being best buddies, seem to create the best in each other.”
It can be difficult for children with Autism to develop friendships, their parents said. For the two to be as close as they are is something their respective parents didn’t always know would be possible.
Dylan would sometimes tell his father, Craig Lord, that he wanted friends like his older brother did — a heartbreaking comment, Craig said, because for years that didn’t seem possible.
“Your child can be isolated. This relationship … it’s a total answer to our prayers,” he said.
“It’s a chance of a lifetime to go to the Oscars. It’s a chance of a lifetime to do so with a best friend you never thought he could have,” added Pamela Lord.
Throw in representing Easter Seals, and bringing awareness about Autism, and she said “You can’t even really put it into words.”