I’d like to thank Danielle, and the Board of Hope Autism for giving me this honor. I means a great deal to me to be here with members of the autism community. This community has embraced my family, and it is a place where I feel very much at home.
I’d also like to thank all of you, for being a kind and supportive audience; because I am a first time honoree, and this is my first speech.
So here goes:
Like Brian, who spoke so eloquently, and lovingly about his son, Christopher, I would like to tell you a little bit about my son. So you will hear about two remarkable young men tonight.
I have a 14 year old son named Liam — I hope for him every day. I hope for him fiercely. I hope for him in the very special way that the mother of a special needs child hopes.
I hope – that he continues to grow up handsome and funny –a truly loyal friend – and maybe, even a wonderful, loving husband some day – like his dad.
I hope – he grows up to be an avid student and learner, like his big sister. Not just an academic student, but a student of the world, who cares deeply, and gives back to the community, like she does.
I hope – that as he grows up along side his little sister (whom Liam “affectionately” calls Pesky – short for Pesky Little Sister) that he maintains a sense of fun, and a love of life, like she does.
I hope for all of this, and so much more. What I know, is that Liam is growing up with autism, and that he’s doing a terrific job.
Liam’s success stems from the first place that truly gave me hope, the Newmark School, in Plainfield, where Liam is currently in 8th grade. In addition to changing Liam’s life completely, Newmark taught me that I am a good enough mother.
They taught me that I can do everything I need to do to ensure that Liam grows up well educated, with appropriate social skills and with the tools he needs to be successful in his life.
The 2 founders and directors of Nemark are here tonight – Cindy Allman and Regina Peter. Cindy and Regina, I thank you from the bottom of my heart – there is not a chance that Liam would be where he is today without you, and without Newmark.
But Liam will not always be at Newmark. He is rapidly becoming a young adult – and this is happening a bit more quickly than I might like. I always swore that I refused to go through puberty with Liam, and yet, here we are!
Hope Autism gives all of us hope for this new challenge that is young adulthood. Hope Autism is one of the few organizations that is focused on what happens when an autistic child becomes an autistic adult.
I am sure that most people outside of our community have no idea what our children face as they grow up.
But those of us in this room know that help comes from people who understand the challenges .
Who have the skills and determination to overcome them – and who never, stop hoping.
So please, all of you, continue to hope, for Liam, for Christopher and for all our children and young adults living with autism.
Hope – that we can help them to grow up strong and confident.
Hope – that they will have friends and a support system to guide them, and love them.
Please, hope – that they will be happy.
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.
A buzz filled the room yesterday as BTIG traders raised money for several charities, including Autism Speaks. Celebrities greeted traders, their children, and invited guests. All of the profits from the day’s trades will be donated to the charities. Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr, Board member Alison Niederauer, her son Liam and husband Duncan, were there with our celebrity friends, Corey Louchiey and Howard Cross, veteran NFL players and loyal supporters of Autism Speaks.
Last Thursday, BTIG LLC, a premier institutional brokerage and fund services company, hosted its eighth annual Commissions for Charity Day. The firm’s last Commissions for Charity Day raised more than $3 million, and BTIG has donated more than $10 million to various organizations, including Autism Speaks.
Special thanks to Autism Speaks’ Board Member Alison Niederauer for ensuring our annual involvement; and thank you to current and former professional athletes Michael Boley, Alfred King and Howard Cross for participating on our behalf.