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Autism Speaks U Spotlight: University of Michigan

November 1, 2010 4 comments

Autism Speaks UThis guest post is by Maressa Criscito, the Co-President and Co-Founder of the Autism Speaks U Chapter at the University of Michigan. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Alexandra Lewisohn and I started our Autism Speaks U chapter during the summer of 2009.  It was during this time that we began researching student organizations related to autism spectrum disorders at the University of Michigan, and to our surprise, there were none.  Due to personal connections with autism, as well as our desire to raise awareness and funds for this cause, we took it upon ourselves to create a successful and active student organization for autism spectrum disorders. After much research, both online and via word-of-mouth, we realized the dedication that Autism Speaks had to raising awareness and funds for autism research, while advocating for the autism community. Their dedication was definitely paralleled to ours.  After contacting both the national and local Autism Speaks staff, we began our journey to create a student organization at the University of Michigan in fall of 2009.

Our chapter aims to further the mission of Autism Speaks by engaging the campus community to support this important cause. We strive to create a community that will educate, support, and enhance the lives of those affected by autism. Students join our organization to take part in fundraising events, volunteer opportunities, and/or to just become involved in raising autism awareness around campus and the Ann Arbor community.  Previous fundraising activities include bake sales, local bar nights, and a restaurant week that took place in May 2010. Active members also have the option to volunteer with children on the spectrum once a month at the Judson Center, a local community center in the Ann Arbor area.  We also promote numerous awareness events such as, “Wear Blue for Autism Awareness Day.” This year, Autism Speaks U at the University of Michigan has grown immensely, now having over 200 members and the support from many others.

On October 23, 2010, we hosted our first basketball tournament and basketball knockout event, raising almost $800 and attracting sponsors from local bars, restaurants and Grublife.  All of the food, beverages and prizes were donated! Prizes included DEADMAU5 tickets, gift certificates to high-end restaurants (such as Melange and Zingerman’s), other gift certificates to local restaurants, University of Michigan apparel stores, and Autism Speaks U gear.  The basketball tournament involved 4-on-4 half-court basketball games that were played up to 11. It was $10 per person to register for the tournament and each team could have a maximum of 5 players per team. There were a total of 16 teams participating in the basketball tournament. We also had a basketball knockout game where about 20 individuals formed a single file line at the free throw line and shot foul shots. This game continued until 1 winner was left and was $5 per person to play.  In order to get support and involvement from the community, we posted flyers around campus, as well as sent e-mails to other student organizations and Greek Life on campus. It was truly a great event that we hope to expand even more so in the following years!

If you are involved with Autism Speaks U on your campus and would like your story to be featured on the Autism Speaks blog, please send it to AutismSpeaksU@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

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