This guest post is by Asia Bartlett, a junior at the University of Georgia studying Special Education. She is very passionate about supporting the autism community and is an Autism Speaks U student leader. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.
Hey fellow autism advocates! While I personally do not have family members on the autism spectrum, those affected by autism have captured my heart in ways that I cannot describe. I had my first experience with a child with autism as a junior in high school and I watched as he began to slowly develop. When he said his first word to me after months of silence when I had been with him, I instantly knew where my passion lay. I decided in that moment that I was dedicating my time and energy from there on out to children and families affected by autism.
I am in my second year as the Executive Director of AutismUGA, an autism awareness organization on campus started just three short years ago in Athens. In our three years on campus, we have raised nearly $20,000 benefiting Northeast Georgia families affected by autism. A portion of our fundraising is annually donated to Autism Speaks in Atlanta and our organization is considering dual enrollment with Autism Speaks U.
Over the years, our club holds an annual “Presidential Spelling Bee” where the Presidents of on-campus organizations compete for their organization to raise money for families in Northeast Georgia affected by autism. We also organize our own annual Walk for Autism which includes a resource fair for parents and a kid’s zone complete with stations ranging from crafts to music therapy to a bounce house! Once a month we host Get REAL Saturdays at a local elementary school and parents meet for a support group while we play games and activities with the children.
This November our organization held our first annual dart tournament in downtown Athens. The event was a huge success and benefited Autism Speaks! With approximately 200 attendees and over forty pairs entering the tournament, we raised close to $1,500 in our first attempt at this type of event! The school paper ran an article about our organization and flyers were placed all around campus. Students and community members were able to pre-register on the Autism Speaks U website up until the day of the event which made collecting entry fees a breeze for us. We are so excited about the buzz our dart tournament created on campus and we have had multiple people tell us they can’t wait to participate in the event again next year. We had prizes such as footballs autographed by the Dawgs, local gift certificates and even a bar tab for the winners (it’s a college town out here, so people were pretty excited!).
In 2011, we have big things planned including a “Parent’s Night Out” where members of our organization will be babysitting so that parents can take a night off. We’ll continue our traditions of the Spelling Bee, our Walk and REAL Saturdays while adding some great awareness events on campus like an awareness week we have planned around World Autism Awareness Day.
We are headed into the Spring semester with a newly elected Executive Board and a lot of passion for the upcoming year! You can learn more about AutismUGA and our awareness efforts on our facebook page and our blog, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.