An inside Look at Donnie Wahlberg’s Work Helping Kids with Autism, Including His Stepson Evan
New Kids on the Block member Donnie Wahlberg has become an outspoken advocate for autism in the past five years, and it’s all because of his stepson, Evan, who was diagnosed with the condition as a child.
When Donnie Wahlberg married model turned TV host Jenny McCarthy, he also became the stepfather of her only son. And with that title, came the responsibility of learning everything about autism.
Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy attend the Annual Charity Day in New York City on September 11, 2015 | Photo: Getty Images
But the boyband member and actor went above and beyond to show how much he cares about his new family and has now become one of the most relevant figures in the cause to spread awareness and raise funds for autism.
STARTING A NEW FAMILY
Wahlberg, who is currently starring in the series “Blue Bloods” alongside Tom Selleck, first met McCarthy when he was a guest on her VH1 show, “The Jenny McCarthy Show,” in March 2013.
On their first interaction on camera, the pair shamelessly flirted in front of everyone while Jenny asked Donnie some intimate questions. Wahlberg later recalled how they were smitten with each other immediately.
Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy attend the "Blue Bloods" screening at 2017 PaleyFest in New York City on October 16, 2017 | Photo: Getty Images
Four months later, it was confirmed that they were dating, and in early 2014, Donnie proposed with a 10-carat yellow sapphire engagement ring and enlisted Jenny’s son, Evan, to help him pop the question.
Wahlberg’s wife was more than happy, as she explained to Fox News that, before meeting Donnie, she thought she would be raising her son as a single mom.
“Donnie has been amazing. I thought for sure I would be going at it alone, like many parents who have kids with autism do. Usually, 80 percent of them [are] divorced,” Jenny said.
Jenny McCarthy visits "The Jenny McCarthy Show" at SiriusXM Studios on November 19, 2019 | Photo: GettyImages
“So, the fact that I found the love of my life for me, and [my son] Evan found a stepdad in his life, and I feel like I can’t ask for anything else.”
The couple tied the knot on August 31, 2014, with a small but romantic ceremony at the Hotel Baker in St. Charles, Illinois. In front of 100 guests, including some of Wahlberg’s brothers, who are also actors.
Donnie Wahlberg, Paul Wahlberg and Mark Wahlberg attend the Wahlburgers Coney Island Preview Party on June 23, 2015 | Photo: GettyImages
Evan, who’s Jenny’s only son from her failed marriage to actor John Asher, suffered a series of life-threatening seizures at age two that, eventually, led to his autism diagnose.
McCarthy has said she had overlooked the signs as part of her son’s personality, from the flapping of his hands to his lack of physical affection toward his parents, and his fascination with door hinges.
Jenny and John’s marriage started to deteriorate when he felt she wasn’t giving him enough attention because she was too focused on their son’s wellbeing. They divorced in 2005.
Evan got into a UCLA program to treat autism, and Jenny also looked into other alternatives, like removing wheat and dairy from his diet.
By the time they met Donnie, Evan had improved a lot, but that doesn’t mean his and his mother’s work with autism ended. So, after joining their little family, Wahlberg also hopped on the train of advocacy.
DONNIE AS A STEPDAD
Aside from Evan, 17, Donnie Wahlberg is a father to Xavier, 26, and Elijah, 18, from his first marriage to Kimberly Fey.
Jenny and Donnie decided no to have kids of their own because they want to give all their energy to raising the boys they’ve already have and then enjoy their golden years.
It helps for their little blended family that Evan and Elijah have found in each other’s parents what they lack with their own.
Wahlberg recently explained to US Weekly that while his son is intellectual and reserved, he’s not that affectionate. Evan, on the other hand, is “super affectionate” and will say exactly how he feels, but he’s not that intellectual.
“So we’ve come into each other’s lives and our kids sort of, we connect with our kids in ways that we haven’t connected with our own. So with Evan, Jenny’s son, I get all these amazing ways to connect with him that I don’t get with my son, and Jenny now can sit down with my son and talk about it…[intellectual things].”
THEIR WORK WITH AUTISM
Jenny McCarthy serves as president on the board of Generation Rescue, a non-profit organization that “advocates the scientifically disproven view that environmental factors, particularly vaccines, primarily cause autism and related disorders.”
Wahlberg has joined Jenny on several occasions at the organization’s events, taking the stage to share his experience as the stepfather of a kid with autism, and praising those parents that work relentlessly for their child’s health.
He also organizes an annual fundraiser, the Another Evening with Donnie Wahlberg & Special Guests concert.
And last year, he started the Autism Awareness Summerfest event, which counted with the presence of ex-boxer Micky Ward, Jimmy Hayes, former Patriots linebacker Niko Koutouvides, and several other big names in sports.
The proceeds went to charities, including Autism Speaks, Into Action, Chelmsford PAL, and Generation Rescue.
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