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2012 Walk Season Kicks Off with a Bang

Over the weekend, the great state of Florida kicked off our Walk season in Palm Beach and Miami. Both walks were a success drawing big crowds and raising funds for Autism Speaks’ work funding innovative autism research and family services, to increase awareness about the growing autism health crisis, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism.

In Miami an estimated 25,000 plus walkers participating and are expected to raise over $700,000!  Under the leadership of our Walk Chair Manny Gaunaurd, as well as Board Chair Al Lopez, Miami once again set records for its Walk! Corporate sponsors Toys “R” Us,  IMUSA (who had especially designed an Autism Speaks frying pan), Sardanos Supermarket, Johnny Rockets, FedEx, DHL, BDO, South Florida Ford, and many, many more were on hand to lead the celebration. Particular thanks are also in order to several other top corporations including Total Bank, and our good friends from Buffalo Wild Wings.The day was highlighted by a young woman with autism who serenading the crowd with songs of hope and joy.  We were also delighted to be presented with the first ever key to the city of Doral by Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Palm Beach welcomed more than 7,000 people took part in the Walk fun raising over $344,000! 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, but the activities surrounding the Walk, though, were enjoyed by the thousands of walkers who came out for the event! 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.

Here’s some fun tweets!

@Med_Claims: Did you have fun at the @autismspeaks walk in Palm Beach? We did! Send us your pictures! #Autism

@JasonMizrach#GOTeamJonathan! RT @sexilady143: We had such an amazing time walking at the @autismspeaks lockerz.com/s/189573096

@WajimaAlvaradoMar: Drenched but it was completely worth it. See you all next year @ItStartsWLove for @autismspeaks 2013instagr.am/p/HwnUjTgYVt/

@5K4AutismAware: Congrats and thanks to all taking part in Walk Now for @autismspeaks in Miami today.

@SincerelyElaine: Great walk for a good cause. @autismspeaks #TeamBrayden

Check out some of these awesome photos from both events!

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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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Chicago’s ‘An Evening with the Stars’ Raises Over $150,000

On Oscar Night, Sunday, February 26, 2012, Autism Speaks hosted An Evening with the Stars, a red carpet spectacular with the glamorous backdrop of the 84th Annual Academy Awards® broadcast, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, 9300 Bryn Mawr Avenue in Rosemont, Illinois.

An Evening with the Starsbrought the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to the Windy City, featuring red carpet arrivals, pre-show interviews broadcast live on the big screens and live and silent auctions with prizes ranging from dinner-theater packages to all-expense paid trips to Hollywood and New York City.

Guests were treated to a very special multi-media segment featuring milestones and accomplishments of individuals on the autism spectrum, with musical accompaniment provided by Chicago recording artist Andrew Salgado and Grammy Award winner, Jim Peterik.  Salgado and Peterik, who is best known for his work with the band, Survivor, and Ides of March, have been long-time supporters of Autism Speaks.

Steven Insoft, Autism Speaks’ Chicagoland Chapter board member and chief financial officer of Aviv REiT, served as Executive Producer of this year’s event. Insoft dedicates his involvement to his son, “For me, this is a very personal cause. My involvement is for my son and for my family, as well as for the tens of thousands of other Chicago area adults, children, families and caregivers who struggle with autism.”  Through the generous support of Aviv REIT, the Insoft Family, the Schlaack Family, FirstMerit Bank, Cathedral Rock, Bulley & Andrews, Maplewood Senior Living, the Village of Rosemont and others, the event welcomed more than 300 guests, raising over $150,000 to support Autism Speaks.

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An Evening with the Stars – and YOU Can Be There!

February 24, 2012 1 comment

We don’t know about you, but we have Awards fever! The Chicagoland Chapter of Autism Speaks is hosting an awesome event, ‘An Evening With the Stars.’ Unfortunately we can’t all physically be there, but you can VIRTUALLY be there! Throughout the night we will be giving updates on Facebook, Twitter, and our newly created Tumblr account! Please be sure to follow along and have some fun this Sunday!

Coverage starts at 6pm EST – so be there!!

Categories: Awareness, Fundraising

Autism Speaks to Young Professionals Winter Gala a Success

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Last night, more than 250 guests, including Miss New York 2012 Johanna Sambucini, packed the house at the ultra-cool Avenue lounge in New York City for the fifth Autism Speaks to Young Professionals winter gala. The annual event is designed to bring together young professionals from all industries to generate funds and awareness of autism. Co-chaired by Jesse Morris and Danny Ryan, the Autism Speaks to Young Professionals winter gala raised over $33,000 dollars for Autism Speaks’ research and advocacy initiatives.

A special thanks goes out to the sponsors who helped make the event such a special evening, including RBS, Brooklyn Brewery, Crop Organic Vodka, DonQ Rum, Farmers Botanical Organic Gin, Given Tequila Liqueur, Magner’s Irish Cider, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. And finally, thank you to Lauren Colatrella of Bakari for the delicious and festive cupcakes!

Be sure to scroll through all of the great pictures below.

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I Want You!

February 14, 2012 5 comments

This post is by Luau, who blogs at, ‘Run Luau Run.’

Last Saturday I had the honor of attending the Boston Autism Speaks Walk Awards Dinner. It was an evening filled with inspiration and hope. While there I spent some time talking with Erica Guinta, head of the Massachusetts chapter of Autism Speaks. She was excited to tell me that Autism Speaks and the 13.1 Marathon Series had teamed up to make Autism Speaks the official charity of 13.1 Boston. For the September 16th event, Autism Speaks has pledged to field 400 half-marathoners. Each of those runners will commit to raising at least $500, meaning that we will raise at least $200,000 for research, advocacy and awareness programs.

This is where you come in.

I am NOT asking you to donate.

I am NOT asking you for money.

I want YOU!

YOU!!!

I want you to come cover 13.1 miles with me, where we will start at historical Suffolk Down race track and “dash through East Boston, Revere, and Winthrop, take in a stunning view of Downtown, and smell the salt air of the great Atlantic Ocean! The Boston 13.1 Marathon is (also) WALKER FRIENDLY. The course will remain open for 3 hours and 30 minutes (16 minute/mile pace).”

We are all touched by autism – whether it is ourselves, a family member, a neighbor or friend. If you haven’t been touched by autism, chances are you will – and soon.

I was inspired in listening to Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr Saturday night speak of a generation of children who are growing up with the understanding that kids like my little Brooke are “just one of the guys,”; of high school basketball and football players who were coming up to him simply to ask, “what can we do for so-and-so”; of college kids who were packing auditoriums to hear him speak on a Thursday night (I don’t know about your experience, but my Thursday nights in college were generally spent in the fraternity basement).

There is a generation of kids who are growing up with awareness, knowledge, compassion.

“Just one of the guys.”

It made me realize that there were in fact, many girls at Brooke’s school that really do just look at her as one of the girls. Yes, they know she’s different, but they just don’t care. They like her and she likes them. In fact, this morning at drop off, a girl that was in her class LAST year came up to her to give her a pink teddy bear for Valentine’s Day. Brooke hasn’t had a play day with this girl since last summer, yet this young lady thinks enough of Brooke that she felt compelled to give her a Valentine’s Day present.

This kind of awareness, this kind of comfort would, in part, not be possible were it not for the awareness efforts of organizations like Autism Speaks. In turn, organizations like Autism Speaks would not be successful were it not for the incredible efforts of you. Yes, YOU.

***

Whether you are an experienced marathoner, an avid walker or just a getting off of the couch, I would like to invite you to join the Team Up! with Autism Speaks Team. They make fund raising easy.

2012 Team Up! with Autism Speaks benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Race Entry (which means you don’t need to worry about the $65 – $100 entry fee)
  • Team Up! with Autism Speaks Runners Tank or Long Sleeve, and an Autism Speaks dri-fit hat
  • Pre-Race private team dinner for you and a guest, location TBA
  • Customized fundraising page
  • Team Up! Facebook Page
  • Virtual Coaching by a certified running Coach Chris Fales
  • Fundraising Tips and Opportunities
  • Dedicated Autism Speaks staff
  • Race Day Cheering Section at Mile TBA
  • Race Day Team Up! Tent for pre and post race usage
  • Team Handbook- In a PDF form and downloadable for reference at anytime.

I will add one more “benefit” if you are a Boston local. If you will be running your first half-marathon at 13.1 Boston, or just need some inspiration to get out there, I will organize weekly weekend long runs in the weeks leading up to the event. 7 months is a long ways away; plenty of time to get yourself ready for what is sure to be a fun-filled, inspiring day.

If you are an out-of-towner, what better excuse to get yourself up here for a visit? You’ll get to see New England in the early Fall, you’ll get a great run in, you’ll raise funds for a worthy cause, and best of all, you’ll get to have dinner with me the night before the race…okay, well, maybe that last one is not such a great excuse. Regardless, whether you decide to dine with me or not, I want you here.

You love to or want to run/walk.

You want to help.

On September 16th you can do both.

Join me by registering join the Team Up! with Autism Speaks Team—>>>HERE<<<—.

Experienced runner, novice runner, walker or couch potato – I. Want. You!

If you cannot join me but would still like to help, please consider donating here --->>> http://events.autismspeaks.org/boston13.1marathon/runluaurun

SheKnows.com Launches Campaign to Benefit Autism Speaks

February 10, 2012 1 comment

Our friends at SheKnows.com, a top women’s lifestyle website, have launched “SheKnows Where the Other Sock Went,” an awareness and fundraising campaign benefitting Autism Speaks. The campaign will kick off at a star-studded celebration on the first Friday of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City.  The centerpiece of the campaign is a couture gown constructed from single socks donated by six-time Grammy Award winner and autism advocate Toni Braxton and designed by Project Runway star Michael Costello. A print campaign featuring the dress will be shot by famed fashion photographer Nigel Barker. The gown and print ad will be unveiled at the Sheknows.com Fashion Week celebration, and the dress will be auctioned off at an event in May, with all proceeds benefitting Autism Speaks.

The Heart of the Race is in Corral 7

February 9, 2012 3 comments

By Rebecca Fehlig the National Director, Field & Chapter Development

So my friends who don’t run hear that I’ve completed 6 marathons and usually say, “wow, you must be in really great shape.” Or “I could never do that.” And those who have run with me know my response is very appropriately, “nah, I just run slow.”

Sunday morning I stood huddled in my corral waiting for the anthem to kick off a 26.2 journey will thousands of fellow runners in beautiful downtown Phoenix. As I waited in my goodwill warm up throw-aways, I looked behind me curious how many more corrals were behind me. That’s when it hit home….I was in the last corral. You see, runners are assigned to a corral based on their estimated finish time. In other words, they want to make sure the slow runners down get trampled by the clock watching, Boston seeking athletes.  As I continued to size my fellow corral 7ers up and down since I know we’d be spending quite some time (5 hours actually) together, I started to get sentimental about how much I enjoy this group. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely admire the stamina and focus it takes to earn a spot in the front corrals. But I personally never felt the joy from watching a clock as my gauge on a meaningful running experience.

If you hang out in corral 7 you’ll see a group that is competitive, but I suspect we don’t strike you as the typical long distance runner. And I strongly suspect most, like me, are there for a much higher purpose that their clock time. My corral mates are definitely a more ‘mature’ crowd. Many are recovering from a variety of injuries, some actually quite serious. And quite a few of us are there because we are not particularly good runners, but we want to support a cause ad agreeing to run 26.2 miles is an easy way to show your dedication for a charity and raise funds to support it. Around me are tribute signs for Cancer, MS, Leukemia & Lymphoma. This is my crowd. I run for autism…and more specifically, I run for Autism Speaks.

I cannot express how powerful and uniting a marathon is amongst runners. And when you display your passion to support a mission through a sport, well, we runners just can’t help but start talking and sharing throughout the 26.2 mile trek. The upside to having a slow race is you just have more time to spread awareness amongst thousands of new running friends. And when they see the blue puzzle piece on my shirt, many inquire

I suspect the charity runners in corral 7 chose there marathons as their distance of choice for another reason beyond fundraising. For this distance does something to your mind, body and spirit that you cannot identify with until you get to mile 24. For some the infamous ‘wall’ is mile 20. My struggle begins at 24. Mile 24 is my wall, or more appropriately, it is my meltdown.

If you are in the autism community, the term ‘meltdown’ is a familiar term. Often confused with a tantrum to those who are not familiar, an actual meltdown, if you ask any parent, is much more serious. When I think of what a person with autism must experience mentally when a meltdown strikes, the following comes to mind: last resort, irritated, uncomfortable, stuck, frustrated, help me, I can’t, stop.

Now please understand that I don’t intent to diminish the severity and spectrum of this neurological disorder by comparing it to a race. But in my attempt to understand those Autism Speaks serves, I can only identify with the ‘meltdown’ that I experience at mile 24.

“But there are only 2 miles left. Buck up and just get through it.” Yes- that is what I think my logical reaction should be at this point, but when your body is depleted, your mind does not always cooperate. In fact, mine searches for an escape. My escape includes me romanticizing the idea if the medics taking me away on a stretcher, sharing some colorful 4 letter words, and a few times…even tears. (I am thankful that mile 24 has few photographers. For as many a fellow runner and obviously a fellow fan of Tom Hank’s League of their Own, have shared, “There’s no crying in running.”)

Training for and the race itself can be hard on your body, especially as I zone in on the “40 and 49” age category, yet it is essential for my mental health. Before each race, I go in knowing it may be my last. And I always go into it with every intention of being ‘meltdown-free’. I suspect my fellow corral 7ers are thinking about the pain felt at their miles 24 as a way to connect to loved ones’ or their own challenges-be it fighting cancer, MS or autism.

Getting to mile 25…that is the key. Just as individuals with special needs have their own desired outcomes unique to their abilities, getting to mile 25 is mine. For once that hurdle of mile 24 is behind me, mile 25 is the light at the end of the tunnel. My spirits lift, my posture improves and my pace increases. “I got through Mile 24…I can do this!” I don’t know if this is how someone with autism feels when they avoid or maybe just survive a meltdown, but I’d like to believe at the end of it, they come out feeling a tinge of hope.

In fact, I imagine the reason my fellow corral 7ers decided to run in Phoenix with me last Sunday was for that one reason…Hope.

Are you Teaming Up with Autism Speaks?? 
Guaranteed Entries are Available, space is limited: 
NYC HALF MARATHON- March 18, 2012 http://events.autismspeaks.org/nychalfmarathon - SOLD OUT 
NASHVILLE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MARATHON – April 28, 2012 http://events.autismspeaks.org/RNRnashville 
SANTA BARBARA WINE COUNTRY HALF MARATHON – MAY 12, 2012 http://events.autismspeaks.org/santabarbarahalf 
ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ TRIATHLON – JUNE 10, 2012 http://events.autismspeaks.org/escapefromalcatraz - SOLD OUT 
NYC TRIATHLON – JULY 8, 2012 http://events.autismspeaks.org/NYCTRI 
CHICAGO ROCK’N’ROLL HALF MARATHON- July 22, 2012 - http://events.autismspeaks.org/teamupchicago 
BOSTON 13.1 MARATHON benefiting AUTISM SPEAKS – SEPTEMBER 16, 2012 - http://events.autismspeaks.org/boston13.1marathon 
CHICAGO MARATHON – October 6, 2012 - http://events.autismspeaks.org/teamupchicago 
NYC MARATHON – November 4, 2012- http://events.autismspeaks.org/nycmarathon

“Autism is like running a marathon, it isn’t a sprint. Patience, focus, persistence and advocacy are the keys to providing our children a brighter future than today.” – Pat Kemp

Weekly Whirl – Focus on Sevenly!

January 20, 2012 2 comments

If anyone knows how hectic life can get – WE DO! That’s why we have created the Autism Speaks Weekly Whirl to fill you in on all of the highlights of the week! The last thing we want is for you to be left out of the loop! Please share with friends and family to spread the word about all of the exciting things going on in the autism community. Keep in mind, these updates aren’t limited to Autism Speaks — we will be featuring news from across the community.

This week we have been partnered with Sevenly, an awesome organization whose mission is, “To raise capital and awareness for the world’s greatest causes.” The Autism Speaks campaign set the record for the most funds raised on the first day! We would like to send a big THANK YOU to all of those who made it possible!

Don’t worry though, you still have until Monday, January 23 to get in on the action! Just visit http://sevenly.org/ and grab some swag!

Autism Speaks Partners with Sevenly for an Awesome Awareness Campaign!

January 17, 2012 4 comments

Autism Speaks has teamed up with Sevenly to create custom designed tee-shirts to spread awareness about autism from January 16th to the 23rd. This is a unique opportunity and won’t last long, so get your swag quick! Every item sold helps the family of an individual with autism in a time of need. Through these funds, we can provide emergency financial aid during times of crisis or unplanned hardship through our Autism Cares initiative!

Sevenly donates seven dollars from every shirt it sells to a different nonprofit organization each week. The company also raises awareness for the nonprofits it partners with through its social media platform, which encourages supporters to like the week’s campaign on Facebook and share it on Twitter.

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