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The 11th Annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach Draws Big Crowd for Autism Awareness in Florida

March 4, 2012 2 comments

On Sunday, March 4, 2012 – More than 7,000 people, including individuals with autism, their families and friends attended the Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach at City Commons in Downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. The Walk has raised over $344,000 so far, all of which will support Autism Speaks’ work, both locally and nationally fund innovative autism research and family services, to increase awareness about the growing autism health crisis, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families in Palm Beach and beyond.

The event was emceed by NBC News Channel 5’s West Palm Beach Anchor, Michael Williams. Honorary Chairs Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, addressed the crowd with moving speeches, motivating everyone to Light It Up Blue on April 2 and demanding action for the passage of the Achieving Better Life Experience Act (A.B.L.E – legislation allowing families raising children with disabilities to save tax-free for their future needs) in congress.

Walk Corporate Chair Denise Negron, Chair Laura Pincus and Co-chairs Amy Schwartz and Debra Rosenfeld along with their amazing Walk Committee and 200+ volunteers made sure that the morning went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the one thing out of their control was the weather. In the interest of public safety, the actual Walking portion of the day was canceled due to severe storms and high winds. The activities surrounding the Walk, though, were enjoyed by the thousands of walkers who came out for the event.  Before the weather became a factor however, the second annual Run before the Walk took place with more than 200 runners lacing up for autism awareness.

SheKnows.com, the online living magazine, was on hand to promote their “She Knows Where the Other Sock Went” dress. The campaign features Autism Speaks’ long-time supporter and Grammy Award Winner Toni Braxton wearing the dress created by celebrity designer Michael Costello and photographed by renowned fashion photographer Nigel Barker. The unique, high-fashion gown made out of socks that are missing their mates was displayed at the Walk and will next travel to Los Angeles later this spring to be auctioned off with all proceeds benefiting Autism Speaks.

For the sixth straight year, Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us proudly serves as the North American sponsors of Walk Now for Autism Speaks. The company’s mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, stopped by the Walk to meet and take pictures with walkers. Additional sponsors included: Sandra C. Slomin Foundation and Family Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, South Florida Ford, TD Bank, Palm Beach Gardens Whole Foods Market, Palm Beach Spine and Diagnostics, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network – Striano Financial Group, St. Mary’s Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital at Palms West, and Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart, & Shipley, Gunster, and the Miami Marlins.

Also taking pictures with families was beloved McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald. People visited the MedClaim booth for their chance to win a free iPad and South Florida Ford Dealers provided an Official Pace Car for the start of the Walk. They also made generous donations for everyone who logged into their Facebook page. Children from Allamanda Elementary wow’d everyone with a dance, The Exceptional Theater Company entertained the crowd with a song, and Makayla Kelly kicked off the Walk with the National Anthem.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks are the signature fundraising events for Autism Speaks, raising more than $28.5 million in 2011 in 85 cities across the U.S. and Canada to support autism research, awareness and advocacy. Last year’s Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach event attracted more than 7,000 walkers and raised over $390,000 for families and individuals. Autism Speaks has provided funding to Palm Beach services providers, including Project LifeSaver through our Family Services Community Grant program. Autism Speaks science grants have supported research at The University of Miami and Florida International University.

For more information about the 2012 Palm Beach Walk Now for Autism Speaks visit http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org or contact palmbeach@autismspeaks.org or (954) 421-9997.

To see an interview with Bob Wright, please click here.  To see emcee Michael Williams thank Suzanne and Bob Wright, click here.

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Suzanne and Bob Wright interviewed about upcoming Palm Beach Walk Now for Autism Speaks

Watch an interview with Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright about the upcoming Palm Beach Walk Now for Autism Speaks. The Wrights discussed Autism Speaks and its mission with Michael Williams of WPTV. Plus, read coverage of the event from the Palm Beach Daily News.

The Palm Beach Walk takes place on Sunday, March 4.  Visit www.walknowforautismspeaks.org to find a Walk in your area.

Penn State Tragedy a Reminder to Focus on the Voiceless

November 20, 2011 6 comments

This post is by Bob and Suzanne Wright, Co-Founders of Autism Speaks.

The horribly tragic situation at Penn State University is a sobering reminder of what can happen when the powerless have no voice and powerful institutions have no one holding them accountable. It is the cause and effect result of power dynamics at its most extreme, where institutional dominance is protected over the safety and well being of the most vulnerable; where the most trusted have committed the most serious betrayal. We have seen this pattern before with the Catholic Church scandals and now with the allegations at Syracuse University.

Autism Speaks is, first and foremost, a voice for people with autism who often do not have the ability to speak for themselves, nor the resources or power to affect the change our community needs. Sadly, individuals on the autism spectrum are often teased, bullied, and abused physically and emotionally. We continually fight to raise awareness of autism, to educate the public and urge the government to dedicate critical resources for services for people with autism. However, our responsibility as advocates must now extend to a much broader community. To truly exhibit the role of advocates, it is incumbent upon us to stand up for all children, wherever and whenever they are in peril. We must be active protectors of our children – it is not enough to express outrage.

Every organization that exist to advocate for children – big and small, national and local – must step up now, join together and demand action. Justice in Pennsylvania should be our immediate priority. Meaningful, measurable change in how we protect our kids must be the ultimate goal. We have to do more and do better. What happened in Penn State is a shame and a crime. It is also a collective failure. The failure of Penn State was years in the making; we cannot allow it to take years to conclude.

This tragedy must become more than a cautionary tale. It is a rallying call to all those who care about the welfare and well being of children to bring about real change.

·     We call for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate federal crimes that may have been committed to get to the truth and hold those accountable to face the consequences of their collective neglect;

·     We implore other national and local child welfare organizations to stand up and sound the alarm to protect all children everywhere;

·     We ask the governor and the university board to waive its exemption from the state open record law so that parents, families, victims and the media can have access to all the records in this case since 1995.

When a disaster of this magnitude occurs, it is important for all of us to step up and speak out. Bringing our collective influence to bear, we can all make change happen and be the advocates and protectors our children deserve.

Bob and Suzanne Wright
Co-founders, Autism Speaks

1 East 33rd Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10016
212.554.0740

Autism Speaks Co-Founders Honored with 2011 Leadership Award by Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE)

October 18, 2011 2 comments

Autism Speaks Co-founders, Suzanne Wright, Bob Wright, Susan Axelrod, David Axelrod

Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) paid tribute last evening to Autism Speaks Co-founders, Suzanne and Bob Wright, with the 2011 Leadership Award at a gala benefit in New York City.  The Wrights were honored for their ongoing work with autism.  Right now, up to 30% of children with autism also have epilepsy.

CURE Founder and Chair Susan Axelrod and her husband, David Axelrod, reported on CURE’s research progress and urged support for cutting-edge epilepsy research to make a future without epilepsy a reality.

During the event, Bob Wright announced a new partnership with CURE; a high-level autism and epilepsy research conference with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The collaboration between CURE, Autism Speaks, and the NIH will take place in spring 2012, and will be critical in developing joint research priorities to pave the way for breakthroughs and cures.  “Through this partnership with Autism Speaks, CURE believes we will begin to expedite research to benefit both causes,” Axelrod commented.

“We want to extend our deepest gratitude to Susan and the Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy for honoring us,” said Bob Wright.  “There are many commonalities between epilepsy and autism and neither have received the funding they merit based on their high prevalence. We are confident this partnership will help provide answers.”

George Stephanopoulos and Alexandra Wentworth returned as co-hosts of the benefit and special guest Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” was the featured CURE auctioneer.

Also receiving awards were Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” were honored with the Excellence in Journalism Award for raising awareness of the challenges in finding a cure for epilepsy.  Dr. Shlomo Shinnar, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Centerand the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, received the CURE Leadership in Epilepsy Research Award.

Since its inception in 1998, CURE has funded 116 research grants at 71 institutions across 28 states and 9 countries.  The benefit raised over $700,000 for epilepsy research.

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LIVE Q & A Transcript with Co-Founder Suzanne Wright

September 22, 2011 3 comments

Suzanne and Bob Wright are co-founders of Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Inspired by the challenges facing their grandson, who suffers from autism, they launched the foundation in February 2005.

Suzanne has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s National Women’s Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In 2008, Suzanne and Bob were named in Time 100’s Heroes and Pioneers category, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School – they delivered respective commencement addresses at the first two of these schools. The Wrights are the first married couple to be bestowed such an honor in St. John’s history.

The Wrights have three children and five grandchildren.

Click here to read A Grandparent’s Guide to Autism.

12:59
Hi – I’m Suzanne Wright – Co-founder of Autism Speaks and I’m so happy to be joining this web chat today!
1:00
Comment From James McDonald

Good Afternoon

1:00
Comment From sha

thankyou for your time

1:00
Comment From Lucas mom

hi

1:01
I’m here today as Christian’s grandmother – and I’d like to talk about my role as a grandparent and advocate.
1:01
Comment From donna

Good Afternoon all

1:02
We are so excited about our new toolkit which is a grandparent’s guide to autism which can be downloaded for free on our autismspeaks.org website.
1:03
Comment From Emily

Hi Suzanne, I have a brother with Autism and just want to say thank you for your time you put into Autism Speaks.

1:04
Hi Emily.  Thanks for your kind words – I do this for Christian and for all families and individuals affected by autism.  Thanks for joining our discussion today.
1:06
Comment From Lalania Lind

I have a question. Did your family find it hard to get help from the education system for Christian?

1:09
Hi Lalania – very much so. Here is a guide that we provide from autism speaks – a School Community Tool Kit which can give you some advice – and an our IEP – Individual Education Program toolguide – which provides process and practical tips to knowing your child’s rights.
1:09
Comment From Carol

Hello Suzanne! Thank you for coming on to talk with us grandparents today. I was wondering what activities you like to do with Christian.

1:11
Hi Carol! We love to swim with Christian… he loves to go to the playground, he loves to go to the beach and swim in the waves, and he just made a beautiful little necklace for me so we’re starting on some arts and crafts these days.
1:11
Comment From Melissa

My son’s grandmother is a great advocate for our son. He’s now 8 and enrolled in a private Christian school here in Atlanta after spending 3 years in an intensive program at Emory University. I could talk to you all day about all the things she’s done for him and for us. Thank you to Autism Speaks for first jumpstarting our family into seeking treatment for our son back in 2005.

1:13
Melissa, hi. You have a wonderful mom. Speaking as a mom I knew from the get go just how important it was to be there not only for my grandson, but for his parents as well. We are glad that Autism Speaks was able to help your family at a very sensitive and critical time.
1:13
Comment From Sally

How do I share my time with my other grandchildren?

1:15
Hi Sally. This is VERY important. Not only for the sibling of the child affected but for the little cousins too. We as a family take turns with Christian when we are all together so I can spend some time with his brother and cousins. I must say that they are beginning to understand what autism is, and I do spend time trying to explain why special needs.
1:15
Comment From Annie

This Halloween we will trick or treat for Autism Speaks and ask for donations in lieu of candy! My 3 yr old son, Jamey doesn’t like candy, but he is autistic and that’s how I came up with this idea.

1:16
Hi Annie – We LOVE your idea and we’ll be posting it on our website!! I love the fact that you found a way to celebrate Halloween in your own special way.
1:16
Comment From patricia chabra

I am PAtricia Chabra,I have two son with ASD disorder,I have been doing autism walk for years,advocating for children and adults affected,you are such a mentor and inspirational person suzanne,god bless you

1:17
Hi Patricia – even though it’s not possible for me to be at every walk I am always there in spirit. I’m glad to be connecting with you now here – thank you for all your kind words and God Bless you too.
1:19
Comment From Donna McCombs

First, Thank you for giving your time to us for this chat. How can I teach my daughter’s grandparents to be more understanding about her disorder?

1:21
Hi Donna – our new Grandparent Tool Kit addresses this very issue. It will absolutely give you pointers on how to interact with the other set of grandparents who may be as supportive as your own parents. I really hope this helps – I know how difficult it is.
1:21
Comment From Stephanie

I have a grandson named Jaylin and we have been trying to find him weighted blanket he gets to hot if we put the ones he want but wont sleep without them so we was told about the blanket just cant find them.

1:22
Hi Stephanie – we have a list of sensory products on our website.
1:22
Comment From mark

hi Suzanne!:) im mark from the philippines. i’m glad about organizations such as Autism Speaks and really appreciate the facebook account. I have a brother with autism; just wondering, Whats the latest research in autism, such as its cause or new teaching methods given to autistic children?

1:24
Hi Mark! I’ll give you a link to our science which contains the most up to date and cutting edge science news. On another note we have our Light It Up Blue campaign which runs worldwide during the month of April. Can you help me light up some buildings in the Philippines blue?? We want to light up the world!
1:24
Mark – I hope your brother is doing ok.
1:25
Comment From Melanie Hobbs

Hi Suzanne and other parents/grandparents! LOVE Autism Speaks and the Light it up Blue campaign. One thing I’d love to see is resources and ideas for grandparents for toys/gifts. My son is 9 and there are tons of “autism toy” ideas for younger kids, but I would love to find more ideas for older kids. When it comes to birthday time, Grant’s grandparents are always at a loss (and sometimes I am too!). :)

1:26
Hi Melanie! First, thanks for helping us to Light It Up Blue! We actually have a Toys R Us online guide which was specifically created for differently-abled kids.
1:27
Comment From Melissa

It was actually the Autism Speaks series on NBC back in February 2005 that made us realize what we had been dealing with for 18 months despite protests from our pediatrician to the contrary. Our son was then diagnosed with classic autism that April. He’s now mainstreamed with no educational supports, is on the A honor roll, and has become a bit of a musical prodigy much to our delight. We just recently told him about his autism and he’s still wrapping his head around it. We are finding his classmates are beginning to notice his social and behavioral differences and wondered if AS had any suggestions on how to explain what autism is to young non-sibling children.

1:30
Hi Melissa – great question. There’s portion of our School Community Tool Kit devoted to peers. I’m so happy that you were able to see our Autism Speaks series on NBC. In Feb. 2005 no one was talking about autism – now we have our country but the world talking about it. If you are not familiar with our Light it Up Blue campaign I’d love to have your help to shine a light on autism.
1:31
Comment From Sally

At this point in my life it is too hard for me to talk “live” with other grandparents. Are there any Grandparent support chat rooms?

1:33
Hi Sally. We would love for you to check out the grandparent autism network – which provides support and resources for grandparents.
1:33
Comment From Guest

Hi I’m Flo from Germany. I am an SLP who has worked with autism fro many years. It is so encouraging to be able to use the web to support families affected by ASD.

1:35
Hi Flo. Yes it is very encouraging – what would we do with the internet. Please be sure to connect with us on all of our social networks. And also – help us light Germany up blue!
1:37
I need grandparents!! I feel we should have the support of the AARP with the numbers being what they are; 1 in 70 boys and 1 in 110 children. Thousands of grandparents without question are affected by autism. Here is a link to the President of the AARP: the Board.
http://pubs.aarp.org/aarpannualreport/servicesincar2010?folio=18#pg18Please ask them to help Autism Speaks and our grandparent community to raise awareness about the issues that affect our children and grandchildren with autism by making our grandparent tool kit(http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/a_grandparents_guide_to_autism.pdf) available on their website and feature an article on autism in their AARP Magazine during the month of April, Autism Awareness Month.
1:40
It’s so important that the AARP join Autism Speaks – because autism affects everyone – the child, the parents, the siblings, the friends, the teachers, and the Grandparents – who often become the child’s emotional rock.
1:43
Comment From Lania

But how do you get a grandparent to come out of denial? We have been trying for years to help our daughters grandparent that she has autism, but she just will not believe us or the doctors.

1:44
Hi Lania – you know, everyone deals with the diagnosis differently, and I certainly feel for your situation. We have a 100 Day Kit which helps families through the newly diagnosed period. As part of the 100 Day Kit – we have a “Learn the Signs” section describes the hallmark signs of autism in detail. So maybe presenting this information to your daughter’s grandparent will help them understand the diagnosis of autism better.
1:46
Comment From Donna McCombs

Our grandparents on both sides say that if she had more discipline she would not have any behavior issues.

1:46
Donna – the misconception is that aspects of autism is about lack of discipline. This is not the case. Please go to our Learn the Signs and our Grandparent tool kit – I really hope this helps.
1:48
You can learn the signs here! http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/learn-signs
1:52
It has been such a wonderful experience chatting with so many of you today. I really hope that our Autism Speaks website offers you the resources that you need as you navigate through the complexity of living with autism. Know that we are here for you and appreciate all your support. The more people who know about autism will be more willing to help ALL families everywhere. And we can raise the global consciousness by lighting up the world blue in April. Thank for the opportunity to chat with all of you today. Happy Autumn Day. Suzanne Wright

Autism Speaks Co-Founder, Suzanne Wright to Host LIVE Facebook Chat

September 20, 2011 8 comments

Join us on September 21, 2011 at 1pm EDT for a LIVE Chat with Autism Speaks’ Co-Founder, Suzanne Wright! You can read a special letter written by Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright, grandparents of a child with autism, here

Suzanne and Bob Wright are co-founders of Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Inspired by the challenges facing their grandson, who suffers from autism, they launched the foundation in February 2005.

Suzanne has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s National Women’s Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In 2008, Suzanne and Bob were named in Time 100’s Heroes and Pioneers category, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School – they delivered respective commencement addresses at the first two of these schools. The Wrights are the first married couple to be bestowed such an honor in St. John’s history.

The Wrights have three children and five grandchildren.

Click here to read A Grandparent’s Guide to Autism.

Nantucket Walk Now for Autism Speaks Raises over $330,000!

August 21, 2011 1 comment

Suzanne and Bob Wright at the Don Allen Ford Event

On Saturday, August 20, 2011 nearly 1000 people turned out at Jetties Beach for the fifth annual Nantucket Walk Now for Autism Speaks. The walkers raised over $330,000 in support of Autism Speaks’ initiatives.

John Shea, creative director of the Theatre Work Shop of Nantucket and Walk day emcee, welcomed walkers to the fifth annual event. The Walk day festivities kicked off with a wonderful musical performance from the Nantucket Dreamland Foundation Campers and Olivia Esposito who sang songs, and remarks were given by Paul Borneman, a parent and first time Walk participant, and Melissa Murphy, Representative of Nantucket School Committee. Massachusetts State Representative Tim Madden (D-Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket District) addressed the crowd and introduced Rep. William Keating (US Rep 10th Congressional District, Mass.). The Theatre Workshop of Nantucket performed one song from The Fantasticks and encouraged the crowd to attend a free performance for those with disabilities on August 24.

Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright took to the stage, where they spoke about the importance of continued awareness and the crucial Combating Autism Reauthorization Act which will sunset on September 30, 2011 without sufficient support. Over the past week leading up to the Walk, the Wrights have spoken to Plum TV and the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror (Inky) about their organization and their particular role as grandparents of a child with autism. Read the Inky story on grandparents. Read another story on autism research here.

Following the Co-founders’ remarks, Bill Tornovish, NBC’s David Gregory and his wife Beth Wilkinson, along with the Walk Committee joined the Wrights for the Walk ribbon cutting. Other special guests attending included three Autism Speaks board members: Phil Geier, James Broder and Kevin Murray. U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Louis B. Sussman and Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal.

The Wrights started the Nantucket Walk Now for Autism Speaks back in 2007 to raise awareness in a place they call home for part of the year. Since its inception, the Walk has raised over $1.5 million. This year the whole town stepped up to shine a spotlight on autism when over 80 restaurants and businesses helped Light it Up Blue over the past week. See pictures from the Light It Up Blue Nantucket initiative on Facebook. In addition. Don Allen Ford played host to the Autism Speaks NASCAR car #11 from Joe Gibbs Racing. Bill Tornovish welcomed the hundreds of guests at Friday evening’s fundraiser saying that this was the first annual event in support of Autism Speaks. Guests not only got to see the great puzzle piece covered car, but also checked out nearly 50 antique and amazing cars. Even the Nantucket Choppers showed up! Read a story in the Inky.

The Walk organizers would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the Chairs Suzanne and Bob Wright, and the Co-Chairs: Sydney Fee Barsanti, Stephen and Jill Karp, Maureen Orth and Susan and Bill Vareschi for their dedication to the success of the Nantucket Walk. Special thanks to Diamond Sponsors Suzanne and Bob Wright, The Cranberry Cup Nantucket, Don Allen Auto Service, Inc., Stephen and Jill Karp, Susan and Bill Vareschi and Platinum Sponsors Maureen Orth, Bob and Laura Reynolds, Wendy and Eric Schmidt, Mimi and Barry Sternlicht, and The Inquirer and Mirror.

Fundraising totals are “to-date” – teams are still raising money and the site is still accepting donations at www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/nantucket. For information, please call (646) 843-6675 or email nantucket@autismspeaks.org.

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