AutismUp: New name, same commitment to caring

10 Apr

April is Autism Awareness Month.

Wait! Don’t stop reading there. Don’t be tempted to think, “That doesn’t affect me. On to the sports section!” Because chances are very good that autism DOES affect you.

Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S, affecting one in every 88 children. Think about that. That’s an amazingly high percentage. That means that in your daily life, you have most definitely come in contact with people affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and probably even know some personally.

So this issue is not something our society can push under the rug, and the more people who understand that, the better.

So let me tell you about an incredible local organization dedicated to spreading the word, and about an event they’re holding later this month where you can help.

The organization is called AutismUp. You may already know it by its former name, UNYFEAT, which stood for Upstate New York Families for Effective Autism Treatment. The new name reflects the evolving and expanding role of the organization as the autism incidence rate continues to grow.

This local organization was founded in 2004 by a small group of parents of children with ASD, and has since grown to more than 1,000 members. Its mission is to support individuals with ASD and their families by expanding and enhancing opportunities to improve quality of life.

But to do that, they need funds. And here’s where you can help.

On Friday, April 26, AutismUp will host their seventh annual Seeds of Hope Growing and Giving Gala from 6:30 to 11 pm at the Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University  Avenue. They’re calling it the “gala at the gallery,” and it will feature, according to the press release,  “fabulous food from MAX Rochester, a variety of music and entertainment, a live and silent auction, and opportunities to learn more about AutismUp programs and services.”

Several Webster businesses are among those who have generously donated raffle prizes, including Prime Steakhouse, Hanks, Kid’s Hair Zone, Armstrong Adirondacks, Bella Vita, Flahertys, Bayview YMCA, Yolickity, Kittleberger, Hegedorns Bakery, Pontillos and Webster Interiors. Plus, Casciani Builders has donated a private helicopter experience for the live auction. Pretty cool.

Tickets are $100 in advance, or $125 at the door. Presale tickets can be ordered online by April 20 at www.AutismUp.org or by calling (585) 248-9011.

Can’t make the gala? Then show your support this Friday by wearing something blue. I know at least one school in the district is encouraging all their staff and students to wear blue, and I hope more get on board.

You can count me in. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of these kids, and despite their communication and behavioral issues, they’ve all been cheerful and funny and pleasant. The way they take joy in life and take pride in new achievements just fills my heart with smiles.

This is definitely a cause you can believe in.

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