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Autism Speaks Canada Hits Grand Slam at the Rogers Cup Tennis Tournament

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

The Rogers Cup presented by National Bank women’s WTA tennis tournament (a US Open Series Event) is used by many top players as a lead-in to the US Open in early September. Women’s and Men’s draws alter between Montreal and Toronto with 2011 being the first year that both events were held simultaneously during the same week. This year, Toronto played host to the Women’s event and Autism Speaks Canada was selected as the profile charity – only the second, non-tennis related charity to have this opportunity in the history of the event.

The Aces for Autism competition ran all week with $50 being donated to Autism Speaks Canada every time one of the players hit an ace. Stats are still being tallied but we hope to hit our goal of $20,000! Luckily, Serena Williams was on her game and hitting her serves hard all the way through the final!

The fun started on qualifying weekend August 6/7 with the Free Family Weekend sponsored by Spin Master – one of Autism Speaks Canada’s incredible corporate partners.  Spin Master provided tons of free samples and prize packs at various skills competitions. Fans had free entrance to the grounds and were treated to some impressive tennis and a plethora of on-site festivities. Activities on both days included a scavenger hunt, roving entertainment, including jugglers, face painters, unicyclists, air guitar contests – and tennis too – with target practice for all those wanting to pick up a racquet and win great prizes courtesy of Spin Master.

At the Autism Speaks Canada interactive display area on-site all week, BDO-Ad Council eye contact installation was activated, allowing visitors to see how difficult it is to communicate, and make eye contact, with children with autism. Additionally, Autism Speaks hosted a Spin Master Moon Dough play area, and ran a contest to win 1 of 20 autographed pictures of Maria Sharapova. Spin Master provided an incredible basket of toys valued at over $500 that was used to encourage fans to sign up for information on Autism Speaks and the early warning signs of autism.

The highlight of the week was Autism Speaks Canada Awareness Day on Tuesday August 9th. The monsoon-like rain that fell that morning did not dampen the spirits of the over 500 women in attendance at the Ladies Day breakfast where Suzanne Lanthier addressed the crowd about the growing national health crisis of autism.

Throughout the matinee and evening sessions, as visitors entered the grounds, they were greeted by Autism Speaks Super Heroes who handed out Autism Speaks backpacks. Video PSA’s and announcements were made throughout the day. Nina and Larry Andrade along with their 4 year old son, Luke and Grandpa Nino – one of our top walk teams from the Toronto Walk –  participated in the official coin toss before the evening centre court match-up between Serena Williams and Alona Bondarenko match on Centre Court.

“The tennis community is really a fantastic one to spread the word about autism and the issues that families face,” Suzanne Lanthier said. “From grassroots clubs across Canada to the high performing athletes, like Maria Sharapova, who have lent their names to further awareness about autism – we know that step by step, ace by ace, game by game and set by set, we will find the missing pieces of the autism puzzle.”

Sincere gratitude to Tennis Canada and the volunteers at the Rogers Cup, Spin Master and Autism Speaks Canada Board member Anton Rabie, and Maria Sharapova for their support.

More photos can be seen on our Facebook!

 

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Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors “Team Up” to Raise Funds and Awareness for Autism Speaks Canada

April 7, 2011 1 comment

For the third consecutive year, Autism Speaks Canada partnered with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s (MLSE) Team Up Foundation, for two autism awareness nights with the Leafs and Raptors on April 5th and 6th. Participation from Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, former Leaf and Stanley Cup winner Brad May along with coaches, players and broadcast staff helped make both nights resounding successes. Special recognition to the Maplewood High School Drum band who performed at the Raptors half-time show and our incredible team of volunteers from top-performing Toronto Walk teams, Toys”R”Us and Spinmaster who set a 50-50 ticket sales record in selling out during Leafs game and helped to raise over $14,000 over the combined 2 nights.

Read more, see pictures and videos here.

In Their Own Words – When Going Downhill is a Good Thing…

January 15, 2011 7 comments

This “In Their Own Words” is by Suzanne Lanthier, the Executive Director for Autism Speaks Canada.

When you live in Canada, there are a few things that are a ‘safe bet’. First, any news about hockey will make the first page of our national newspaper (case in point last June when the front page story of the Globe and Mail showcased the winners of the Stanley Cup – which incidentally was side by side with the latest findings in autism genetics research .. the closest Dr. Steven Scherer will ever get to a Stanley Cup!!).

Second safe bet – there will be snow.

This past weekend, Toronto got its first real winter snowfall. My 11-year old son, Scotty, loves the snow. He is mesmerized by the sight of flakes reflecting in the streetlights and can sit and watch this wonder of nature for hours. I keep telling him that if he was out there shoveling it with me, he wouldn’t think it was so fantastic but I’ll let him have his fun… for now.

Scotty’s autism coupled with his clubfoot makes skating really difficult and painful. His grasp of the rules surrounding team sports is limited at best, so hockey is not an activity that I have pushed too hard. But he’s a Canadian and with that comes the need to find an outdoor winter activity that he can embrace. Tobogganing or sledding was something up until a few years ago Scotty quite enjoyed. Until, that is, we had “crash day” – which really just amounted to a minor collision with another younger boy on our local sledding hill. But with “crash day,” Scotty’s love of tobogganing all came to a crashing halt.

From that moment on, anytime tobogganing was mentioned it was met with significant anxiety and “no sled, no sled, no sled, no crash, no crash, no crash” – red face, panic look, heart racing – you get the picture. He still really liked going to the hill and watching the other kids go down the hill and he especially enjoyed pushing his mother down on the sled (oh my aching you-know-what!!), but to get him to go down was a lost cause. Every once in a while, he’d sit on the “boat” – his word for the sled – but that was about all I could get out of him. The slightest move forward was met with him springing off the sled faster than a slapshot coming off of Crosby’s stick.

Until, that is, this past Sunday. We gave it another shot. It was late – about 5 PM – so only a few die-hards left on the hill. I put the “boat” at the top of the smallest incline and waited. It was a spectacular evening – clear, calm, not too cold. The moon (another of Scotty’s favourite things to gaze at in the sky) was out and a beautiful crescent shape. He climbed in and sat down. He saw some kids at the bottom of the hill and promptly rolled out with the same “no crash, no sled” that I’ve heard before. “Oh well, guess its not going to happen” I thought. So I sat and waited for him to push me down as per our usual routine.

Instead, after a few minutes, he got in the “boat” and said “just mom and Scotty” and down we went. It’s hard to know how to react sometimes. Do I cheer and make a big deal about it or just act ‘natural?’ I went with playing it cool. “OK,” I said, “let’s do it again.” And we did – again and again and again.

Scotty is an observer, and he could see that the other kids were going down on their own. So just when I was about to call it a night, he looked up at me from the “boat” and said “just Scotty.” Really?? I made him repeat it a few times until the tone of his voice pretty much said “Listen lady, I’m ready to go down on my own .. don’t make me think about it anymore or I won’t.”

So, down he went – just Scotty – on his own. I admit that I didn’t play it cool after that. I cheered like he scored the overtime goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He may as well have.

After a few more runs with “just Scotty” it was really getting dark and we were the only ones left on the hill. We both could have stayed all night but I had to be the ‘mom’ and call it a night.

We went back on Monday night. I got to go down once with him – just once. I may have to buy my own “boat.”

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@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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