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Enzo’s mom talks insurance

November 30, 2011 12 comments

This blog post is by Jeanie Caggiano. Her son Enzo has autism and she is an Allstate customer.

My little boy, Enzo, is 7 years old.  He was diagnosed at age 3 with pervasive developmental delay. Last year, they gave us a more specific diagnosis that I am still coming to terms with: autism.

Enzo is apparently on the mild end of the spectrum. But that’s not much of a consolation when I get the call from school that he lost it again today and bit a classmate. Or when I go to volunteer at school and a boy in his class comes up to me and says, “You know, Enzo’s crazy.” Or when I call and call and call the other moms in his class to set up a play date and they don’t return my calls. For the parents of a kid with autism, there’s a new opportunity every day for your heart to break.

It’s why Autism Speaks is so essential. Every day, they’re helping families like ours cope with this disability by researching causes and treatments – and advocating for those who can’t speak for themselves.

I’m writing this because I want to tell you about an easy way to help raise money for Autism Speaks. Now through December 31 (we extended the deadline!) December 14th, when you get any Allstate insurance quote, Allstate will donate $10 to Autism Speaks.

They’ve made a pledge to donate up to $500,000. It’s really easy. You just call 866-998-4488 or visit AutismSpeaks.org/Allstate. Get a free quote on any kind of insurance: car, home, boat, life, motorcycle, business, anything.

Everybody needs insurance. I feel better about getting mine from a company that supports a cause I believe in so much. So please get a quote now through December 31 (we extended the deadline!) December 14th, and tell your family and friends about it, too.

Allstate Partnering with Autism Speaks

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

This post is by Mark LaNeve, the father of twins with autism and Allstate Executive.

I admit it. I have a couple of very personal reasons for wanting Allstate to support Autism Speaks. Their names are Jake and Drew, and they’re my twin sons. They were diagnosed when they were three. They’re now 19 years old. Jake has full-blown autism while Drew copes with a learning disability and autistic-like tendencies. So I understand life with autism.

When a child has autism, their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, friends and schoolmates are also affected. It sometimes makes people feel helpless, like they can’t do anything.

But you can do something to help. And it couldn’t be easier. From now through December 15 when you get any Allstate insurance quote, they’ll donate $10 to Autism Speaks. Get a quote on coverage for your car, home, life, motorcycle…whatever. You could save money on quality Allstate protection. And your quote will help fund research to treat this growing disorder.

Allstate has committed to donating up to $500,000 to this worthy cause. The more people who quote, the more money gets raised. So please, encourage friends and family to get a free, no-obligation quote. Continuing education and research is desperately needed, so your quote will make a difference. Just call 866-998-4488 or visit AutismSpeaks.org/Allstate today.

On behalf of those who can’t always say it for themselves – thank you!

A friend and neighbor: teen advocate is recognized by NASCAR

November 8, 2011 2 comments

This guest blog post is by 17-year-old Autism Speaks St. Louis chapter volunteer Jake Bernstein. He is one of NASCAR’s 4 finalists for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. If Jake wins, Autism Speaks will receive $100,000. To vote for him, visit: http://foundation.nascar.com/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=1414

You cannot pick your neighbors.  We got lucky.  Max and Charlie are my adorable neighbors.  They are seven-year old identical twin boys on the autism spectrum. Charlie and Max often stop over our house to visit.  We all look forward to seeing them.  Max likes to use our iPad. Charlie is more interested in helping us with household tasks. One day he decided to try to help clean up my bedroom.  My bedroom is quite messy. Charlie entered my room and started picking up papers. I was touched.

Max and Charlie would see me carrying my tennis racket to school each morning during the high school tennis season. They would ask me questions about tennis.  Since both boys were intrigued by my tennis racket, I asked their parents if I could provide them with tennis lessons.  The boys’ parents welcomed the idea and shared that there were limited physical, social and recreational opportunities for autistic youth.   Their interest in my racket was the motivation to create a social and recreational opportunity for my neighbors and other children on the autism spectrum who often lack extracurricular outlets.

Planning a weekly tennis clinic is similar to arranging a game of tennis just on a much grander scale.  Tennis supplies and court space were graciously donated by our local Parks and Recreation Department.  I contacted the local chapter of Autism Speaks for guidance and suggestions on promoting the free tennis clinic.  Barbara Goode from the St Louis chapter of Autism Speaks graciously offered to promote the free clinic on Facebook, Twitter and with email blasts. I also posted the request for volunteers in our local newspaper, my volunteer Facebook page and Twitter postings @stlvolunteen.   There was tremendous outpouring of interest from area high school students to volunteer which allowed us to provide individualized instruction for each child. Each week the children and volunteers returned eager and enthusiastic for another tennis lesson.

My grandmother spotted the information online about the Betty Jane France award for volunteer service.  She nominated me for the award.  I was truly surprised and honored to be selected as a finalist for the award.  Each finalist is given the opportunity to donate $25,000 with the potential for an additional $75,000 to the organization of their choice: I chose Autism Speaks. I know that this monetary donation to Autism Speaks has the opportunity to better many kids’ lives.  The time I spend with Max and Charlie has changed the way I see the world.  The boys can find joy in the smallest object. They have taught me to do the same. It is wonderful to learn from these two little boys.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Jake for his support of the autism community, and we encourage everyone to vote for him to win the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award by visiting:http://foundation.nascar.com/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=1414

I’m not running to win, I’m running to honor

October 25, 2011 10 comments

Team Up! with Autism Speaks is dedicated to raising funds to support the mission of Autism Speaks through endurance events that we partner with.  Our goal with each race is to raise awareness and funds through races. We are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. We are committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals. Please join our team and help us accomplish our mission!

Billy Mann, father, husband, Autism Speaks Board Member, believer…I am 42 years old, not graceful and not pretty, I’m training hard and a week away from the New York Marathon.  Between online donations, mail-ins and my awesome friends, P!nk and Carey Hart for contributing $25,000 towards the $110,000, we are only about $33,000 away from reaching our goal of honoring the ONE in 110 children. 

TEN REASONS why I’m running the marathon for Autism Speaks

  • I’m running to honor the incredible autism moms out there like my wife for whom every day is a marathon that tests their limits and then some.
  • I’m running to acknowledge children at all ages who, like ours, spend months/years learning how to simply hold a fork, or speak a word or learn to put on their clothes by themselves.  The 5 hours or so it is likely going to take me to complete the 26.2 miles is nothing next to the 40 hours of therapy my son needs every week just to fight for bare basic skills. If these kids can do that, I can push myself to the limits to do this.
  • I’m running for the parents but also to acknowledge the siblings and grandparents—in or out of any organization–that came before my wife and I, to thank them for being on the front line of advocacy before there was an Autism Speaks, before there were any services and they were brave enough to find a way forward.
  • I’m running for parents whose children with autism are now becoming adults with autism. Between now (when my oldest son is 9 years old) and when my family faces this transition, today’s parents who are addressing this will have done so much to benefit families like mine and I want to honor them now, and always.
  • I’m running to honor the high-functioning autism community and say thank you for educating us and ensuring that the world remembers that every individual with autism—however they are uniquely affected– has a voice, an intellect, gifts and talents, a point of view as valuable as any citizen and each individual contribution to our world should be respected, protected, embraced and celebrated.  I am running to say thank you to them, too.
  • I’m running because the human body is not meant to run 26.2 miles but autism makes us go beyond our limits.  I’m running because it’s hard, because it takes me out of my comfort zone, because I feel awkward doing it, because it hurts, because it takes leisure time and sleep from me: all things that our families face every day and it is a small gesture by comparison.
  • I’m running to acknowledge parents and families many of you know but do not realize that right now, silently, they are at the end of their rope and feel that they can’t go on another day struggling with autism’s impact on their lives because they are just strapped emotionally, financially, physically and even spiritually.  These are the parents who will keep my legs moving when I feel I cannot go on any more because they find a way.
  • In the past 7 years since we received our son’s diagnosed, autism prevalence soared from 1 in 166, to 1 in 150, to 1 in 110 (and 1 in 70 boys) in the USA.  It is 1 in 56 in the UK.  It is 1 in 38 in S. Korea.  Every time I share the statistics with people they always ask the same question, “Why?” and all I can say is the truth: we still don’t really know. With the numbers rising much faster than anyone could have imagined, we are lost without raising money. I am running so that when I ask you to give, you know I’m in it with you every step of the way.
  • I’m running to honor Autism Speaks, every local chapter, every advocate, every parent or sibling who wears a pin or has a puzzle piece on their car or baseball hat.  I am running to say thank you for being a safe resource for families like mine.
  • Lastly, I am running for Christian Hildebrand, an extraordinary little guy who God placed in the right hands with the entire Wright family and in so doing inspired real change in the world for all of us affected by autism.

I don’t know if we can reach the $110,000 for the 1 in 110 kids, but the marathon isn’t for another two weeks.  I’m not running to win, I’m running to honor.

Working In Concert to Overcome Autism

October 17, 2011 4 comments

by Oliver Shokouh 

I get questions asked of me all the time such as, “How did you get started? Was it a vision that you had? What motivated you to do this?” If truth be told, there was no grand design, it just grew organically.

In 1976 I started Harley-Davidson of Glendale.  The former dealer had just gone out of business, and HD was desperate for dealers. On a shoe string budget, I moved my wife and three kids from Detroit, Michigan, to Glendale to start a motorcycle dealership. We were barely hanging on financially.  Owning my own shop was a dream of mine and without really knowing how to make it a success, I was fired-up with nothing but sheer determination going for me.

Getting people’s attention was critical.  I needed people to walk in the doors of our dealership. In 1981 I decided to take Harley-Davidson’s lead.  They had just become a corporate sponsor of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and I hosted a carnival in the back of our dealership to attract customers and have some fun in the process.  One of the goals was to help improve the image of motorcyclists by giving back to our community. We held our first Biker’s Carnival that same year and raised $1500, which we donated to the MDA.  Initially, the carnival events were a way to market our dealership and its products.  However, my focus changed as a result of the joy I felt when helping others.  It was a profound feeling that changed the direction of my life.  I needed to do more.

In 1984, with a lot of help from a group of friends, the Love Ride was born.  Peter Fonda, who was well-known for his role in “Easy Rider,” got involved and created a public service announcement that gained national attention and won an award.  Robby Krieger, of the Doors, offered to play a concert at our event.  The idea of riding for charity felt great, not just for me but for everyone involved, and our very first Love Ride was a huge success.  We had 420 people attend and we rode from Glendale to Calamigos Ranch in the Malibu hills, where we enjoyed an outdoor barbeque, great music and friendship among kindred spirits.  Little did I realize that we were creating a tradition that would continue for 28 years!

On our 10th anniversary, Love Ride grossed over one million dollars, and our organization attained a status of being the largest one-day charity motorcycle event in the world.  Since 1984 we have donated a net sum of nearly 14 million to children’s charities.

The good times became challenged in 2009, as our U.S. economy slipped into the worst economic decline since the Great Depression.  Our event was not immune and, for the first time in Love Ride’s history, we were forced to cancel our event.  For those who had registered we offered a refund of fees but most declined. So, instead, we held a small, intimate event – much like the old carnival days from the early 1980’s – at our dealership.  Peter Fonda, who has supported us all these years, sat in our dealership and signed autographs for hours.  Every person in attendance had a chance to meet Peter.  The Foundation lost a lot of money that year but we re-tooled and came back in 2010 with a smaller format and with Autism Speaks as our beneficiary.

I’ve been asked, “With all the charities out there, how did you select Autism Speaks?” What moved me, and others on our board to support Autism Speaks, was the fact that we have close friends with autistic children, and hearing this made up our minds: “The most important thing a parent can do for a child is prepare them for the future.  What’s going to happen to my child when I’m gone?  Who will be able to care for him?”  These friends need help with activities of daily living that the rest of us have never had to deal with.  Things we take for granted are much more complicated in a home with an autistic child.  Support to these families is very important and we recognize two specific areas that need help: one is services to help families cope and the other is supporting research for a cure.

Whether people ride motorcycles or not, they can participate in Love Ride.  For those who ride, we depart from our dealership at 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 23rd as one large group led by Jay Leno.  For those who want to drive, there is ample free parking at Castaic Lake Recreational Park.

We encourage fundraising among our participants, and everything is tracked online.  Fundraisers create an online profile where friends, family and co-workers can log on and contribute.  These contributions are tax deductible. The top fundraisers are known as “Top Guns,” and they compete with others to win prizes.

If you’re interested in attending, or know someone who loves music, please share our information.  We are going to Castaic Lake Recreational Park on October 23rd, where country music artists, Montgomery Gentry, and others will be performing in concert.  Jay Leno and Peter Fonda will be there too.  Castaic Lake is a beautiful park with lots of grass, shade trees and hills.  The stage is situated near the edge of the lake and hay bales are set up for seating.  There will be a variety of gourmet food trucks, motorcycle stunt shows, vendor booths and lots of great music all day.  Gates open at 10:00 a.m. and parking is free.  Tickets for the day-long event are $65 with advanced registration. For more details or to donate, visit www.loveride.org.

And knowing that all this celebration is also making a difference for families affected by autism only increases our enjoyment of helping others.

Oliver Shokouh is the founder of The Love Ride, a motorcycle charity event currently in its 28th year.  The Love Ride Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, exists to raise money for those less fortunate.  Its primary goal is to support children’s charities.

Check out the radio spot running on Go Country!

More than 100 of the nation’s top chefs serve up an evening to remember for Autism Speaks

October 4, 2011 2 comments

Last night was quite a night for Autism Speaks. More than 100 of the nation’s finest chefs put on a culinary extravaganza at the Autism Speaks to Wall Street: 5th Annual Celebrity Chef Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City and was sponsored by Susan and Steven Wise of KRG Children’s Charitable Foundation, Charmz 4 Charity and Puzzlebuilder among other top sponsors. The annual fundraising event – which can easily be described as a foodie paradise – brought together the biggest names in the restaurant world for an amazing evening that raised $1.6 million for Autism Speaks’ research and advocacy initiatives.

The event was emceed by NBC’s “Minute to Win It” host and Food Network personality Guy Fieri, and co-hosted by CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl and Lee Brian Schrager of Southern Wine and Spirits of America. It featured a cocktail reception, auction and the unique experience of four-course tableside cooking by nationally acclaimed chefs such as Bravo’s “Top Chef” lead judge Tom Colicchio (Colicchio & Sons); Franklin Becker (Abe & Arthur’s, Catch and Lexington Brass); Todd English (ÇaVa Brasserie); Masaharu Morimoto (MORIMOTO); Wylie Dufresne (WD-50); Terrance Brennan (Artisanal, Picholine); Food Network’s “Chopped All-Stars” champion Nate Appleman (Chipotle) and “Iron Chef”  winner Katsuya Fukushima (Daikaya Restaurant). Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright served as the evening’s honorary co-chairs and Jennifer and Franklin Becker, Susan and Philip Harris, Alison and Duncan Niederauer, and Suzanne and Shawn Rubin served as the event co-chairs.

Highlights from the event include Guy calling Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr and KRG Chairman Steven Wise onstage for a “Minute to Win It” contest of stacking apples. Wise wowed the crowd by balancing five apples in about three seconds for the victory! Guests were also treated to a special performance by Rex Lewis-Clack, a young pianist and vocalist who is faced with the challenges of blindness and autism, and opera singer Sam McElroy, who has been coaching Rex on his singing. Introduced by his friend Lesley Stahl, Rex captivated everyone in attendance and received numerous standing ovations. It was a truly masterful performance that equaled the efforts of the illustrious chefs who graciously donated their time and talents to Autism Speaks on a wonderful evening.

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2011 Chicago Ride for Autism Speaks

September 29, 2011 2 comments

On Sunday, September 18, the 9th annual Chicago Ride for Autism Speaks was held. Despite the rain, more than 300 bikes rode with 550 people participating—together raising $50,000…and counting!

Starting at the Villa Park Harley-Davidson, the morning kicked off with music from our media partner, the Loop 97.9FM and their Loop Rock Girl, Tricia, who has a nephew on the spectrum. The 88-mile ride ended at drink, a Schaumburg nightclub where participants dined on burgers, brats and pizza while listening to live music from the band, Mistaken Identity. More than 100 prizes were offered in this year’s merchandise raffle, featuring expensive motorcycle gear, courtesy of Wild Fire Harley-Davidson and sports memorabilia.  All riders received an entry for the Riders Only raffle to win an Apple iPad, courtesy of sponsor, CDW.

The event is made possible by event sponsors, CDW, Shefsky and Froelich, drink and Ala Carte Entertainment, JA Rentals Corp., United Camera & Binocular, Stratford Dental, The Law Tigers, U.S. Equities Realty, the Loop 97.9FM Chicago’s Classic Rock and Wild Fire Harley-Davidson.  And, once again, the Rescue Riders were on duty to ensure a safe and fun ride.  Very special thanks to the police departments that helped to ensure a smooth and safe route, including: Lombard, Villa Park, DuPage County, West Chicago, Carol Stream, Batavia, Kane County, Maple Park, Pinegree Grove, Elgin, West Dundee, East Dundee, Carpentersville, Barrington Hills, Palatine, Hoffman Estates, Addison, Glendale Heights, Geneva, and the Illinois State Troopers. We proudly recognize their commitment to support our riders along the course.

We’d also like to thank our outstanding committee, chaired by, Diane Gedik and her partner, Leo Tavolacci. Diane founded the Ride in 2003 in honor of her son, Joshua.

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