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AS2YP Summer Event Raises Over $80,000

August 6, 2010 1 comment

Photo by Josh Wong, Guestofaguest.com

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management.

The best performance of the day on August 5, 2010 at the NYSE Euronext was after the market closed.

Autism Speaks to Young Professionals (AS2YP) held its second annual New York Stock Exchange Summer Event on Thursday in which the sold out event (over 800 people in attendance) raised over $80,000 for Autism Speaks. The event, which was held on the trading floor of the Stock Exchange hosted a night that was filled with great music, great food, great drinks and great times, overall.

The whole trading floor lit up blue on Thursday, once again pushing the “Light it Up Blue” initiative that began on World Autism Awareness Day. In attendance we had Event Co-Chairs Amanda Niederauer and Danny Ryan who both spoke from the historic NYSE bell podium about the importance of events such as this toward raising money for the autism community.

While in the midst of all of this people were enjoying the different tables surrounding the trading floor which included several sponsored food and drink tables. There was also a raffle table for the Nantucket Walk Now for Autism Speaks, which included prizes such as seats to the U.S Open, round-trip air tickets to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard or St. Barth’s and a Nantucket Lightship basket mirror.

One of the highlights of the night was the opportunity for guest to get their picture taken on the NYSE bell podium where the morning opening bell for the market is rung (how cool is that)!

On behalf of Autism Speaks we would just like to thank all the sponsors: Skybridge Capital, Stitchgraphics, Barbadillo, New Age Imports LLC, Given Liqueur, Cabot, Heartland Brewery, Long Island’s Original Vodka and Magner’s Irish Cider, along with the AS2YP committee who made the night a terrific success.

Everyone had such a great time and the word will quickly spread that this is the place to be.  “Like” AS2YP on Facebook at www.facebook.com/as2yp to stay up-to-date with events and check out event photos by Josh Wong.  As a fan, you will be among the first to hear when we schedule our 2011 Winter and Summer events!

Check out coverage and photos from the event:

Guest of a Guest

How to Support Autism Speaks for Less than the Cost of a Minivan

July 15, 2010 1 comment

This guest post is by Sarah Schaffer, an AS2YP event committee member and employee of BlackRock.

Manhattan is a competitive landscape for just about everything, from career path to sample sales to SoulCycle spinning classes (yes, I too have frantically refreshed my computer as classes for the coming week are released). When I embarked on fulfilling my New Year’s resolution last year to give back to the community, I found that even philanthropy in Manhattan was yet another application process.  As I sifted through applications and interview schedules and tentatively committed to Saturdays from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m in business casual to help empower women in the community, I soon realized I could not maintain such a rigorous schedule and keep my day job. It became quickly apparent that I would never be able to compete with the ladies who lunch (who should really be rebranded as ladies who lunch and volunteer).

After taking a much-needed step back I realized I was approaching the process too scientifically. No one should need approval or admittance to give back to their community. The search should be far more organic. What do I care about? What cause needs attention, especially in my age group? If I barely have time to take my dry cleaning out of the plastic, do I have time to volunteer and where can I make a difference?

These answers are completely personal to the individual, but I soon realized I cared most about helping children – maybe because they cannot help themselves or maybe just because I know I will be a mother one day and have children of my own. As for a topic that lacks attention among my age group (for the record I am twenty-something, that’s all I will divulge), I found autism to be a perfect candidate. There are mothers and fathers who are pioneering for education, awareness, and support for autism today, but this is not a disorder that typically garners awareness among the youth of Manhattan. We are the parents of tomorrow and any disorder that is statistically growing this rapidly should be something we fight for today.

The Autism Speaks to Young Professionals (AS2YP) initiative gave me the perfect opportunity to help change my future. The committee provides different levels of volunteerism to ensure that everyone involved is able to give back whether it is weekly, monthly, or yearly. As a member of AS2YP I learned that some very hip and happening individuals in New York City have been touched by autism. This translates to us hosting our fundraisers at locales you generally cannot get into on a standard Thursday night (without buying a table for the price of a minivan). Or sometimes, events are hosted in a space so completely unique you could find yourself partying on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange – like our first event last year.

All AS2YP events generally end with droves of young professionals being slightly less professional on the dance floor. I expect no less from Round Two at the New York Stock Exchange on August 5.  Come join us from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. for cocktails and dancing for this pertinent and fabulous cause. Some dance moves are better than others, but hey, it’s for charity!  If the DJ doesn’t stop taking my requests like last year, we will even play a little Britney for you (don’t lie, you love it).  Hope to see you all there.

Tickets are available online, starting at $75. Ticket price includes admission, passed appetizers, open bar, dancing and the opportunity to support Autism Speaks while meeting other New York-area young professionals.

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Autism in Cinema

July 14, 2010 4 comments

Over the past few years, the prevalence rates of autism have become staggering, with 1 in 110 children being diagnosed with autism. There have been several movies and documentaries which have placed autism at the forefront. These movies have spread awareness and helped to inform the masses. Here is a list of some movies that have a common theme of autism. Thanks to The Internet Movie Database, we have synopses of each for you. Follow the links to learn more about these films and documentaries. Which of these movies have you watched? What did you think?

A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism (2009)
The Sunshine Boy is a moving, compassionate portrayal of a mother’s desperate quest to understand the perplexing condition that controls her son. A journey through different countries, where every stop-over opens a new path into the depths of autism – and places her son in a strikingly different perspective as it reaches the end. Read more.

Adam (2009)
Soon after moving in, Beth, a brainy, beautiful writer damaged from a past relationship encounters Adam, the handsome, but odd, fellow in the downstairs apartment whose awkwardness is perplexing. Beth and Adam’s ultimate connection leads to a tricky relationship that exemplifies something universal: truly reaching another person means bravely stretching into uncomfortable territory and the resulting shake-up can be liberating. Read more.

Autism: The Musical (2007)
Director Tricia’s Regan’s riveting documentary follows five different families, participating in The Miracle Project (a theatre program created specifically for children with special needs) as their kids write and perform their own musical production. The film is as much about the parents of autistic kids as it is about the kids themselves. How does one communicate with a child who won’t speak? What do you do when your kid only sleeps two hours per night? How do you cope with a world that has little use or compassion for kids that are so different? These are only a few of the questions that the parents must deal with, questions illustrated by a series of almost painfully honest and blunt encounters. Perhaps the most surprising of the kids profiled is Neal, the son of Elaine Hall, who founded the Miracle Project. Profoundly autistic, he hardly speaks, and is prone to violent tantrums, but when he is finally fitted with a keyboard voice box, a sweet, intelligent personality is revealed. A complete triumph! Read more.

The Black Balloon (2008)
Thomas is turning 16. His dad’s in the army and they’ve just moved to a town in New South Wales; his mom is pregnant; his older brother, Charlie, who’s autistic, has his own adolescent sexual issues. Thomas finds Charlie an embarrassment in public, so when Thomas is attracted to Jackie, a girl in his swim class, Charlie presents any number of obstacles when she drops by their house, when the three of them go for a walk, and during a family birthday dinner. Can Thomas find a way enter the world of teen romance and still be his brother’s keeper, or is Charlie’s disability going to prove more than Thomas can handle? Read more.

God’s Ears (2007)
Alexia, working in the sex industry, her perspective on men soured by her job, can’t seem to find her way out. When she encounters Noah in a restaurant, he can barely look at her, not because she’s beautiful, and she is, but because it’s simply just too painful to gaze upon a face, any face. His autism, though seen as a handicap by others, is the condition that causes him to “see” Alexia not as a sex object, but as she wishes to see herself–as good and worthy to be loved just as she is. He captures her attention and her heart. It would seem an unlikely meeting, but Worth creatively draws the parallels of human loneliness and longing that bring these two people together in an unforgettably touching story of the heart. Read more.

Mozart and the Whale (2005)
A dramatic-comedy, inspired by the lives of two people with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, whose emotional dysfunctions threaten to sabotage their budding romance. Donald is a good-natured but hapless taxi driver with a love of birds and a superhuman knack for numbers. Like many people with AS, he likes patterns and routines. But when the beautiful but complicated Isabel joins the autism support group he leads, his life – and his heart – are turned upside down. Read more.

Temple Grandin (2010)
Biopic of Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who overcame the limitations imposed on her by her condition to become an expert in the field of animal husbandry. She developed an interest in cattle early in life while spending time at her Aunt and Uncle’s ranch. She did not speak until age four and had difficulty right through high school, mostly in dealing with people. Her mother was very supportive as were some of her teachers. She is noted for creating her ‘hug box’, widely recognized today as a way of relieving stress and her humane design for the treatment of cattle in processing plants, even winning an award from PETA. Today, she is a professor at Colorado State University. Read more.

Walking in the Dark : Finding the Light in Autism (2010)
In the documentary, “Walking In The Dark: Finding The Light In Autism” hope is restored. The primary purpose of this documentary is to serve as an educational tool to help parents seek those unanswered questions, find ways to network and to get involved. And, through meeting the families, find hope. You will come into their lives, their homes, and see how they live day to day. See how they cope, how they search for the best therapies and medical attention they can find for their children. And, most of all, through the eyes of their children, see the hope. Read more.

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Autism is Closer to Home: Ad Council, Autism Speaks Launch New Awareness Ads

July 7, 2010 57 comments

This guest post is by Bill Shea, Autism Speaks’ National Director of Creative Services. He has been with Autism Speaks since the very first meeting in Bob Wright’s office at 30 Rock and one of his responsibilities has been offering creative guidance to the Ad Council and BBDO.

When BBDO and the Ad Council launched our first awareness campaign in 2006 the CDC numbers said that 1 in 166 children were on the autism spectrum. The challenge faced at that time was “How do we raise awareness about autism and to get the world to listen?”

Our first campaign was called the “Odds”. It was designed with the insight that parents and guardians have certain dreams and aspirations for their child. We all dream that our child will be the next Britney Spears or the next Derek Jeter. The “Odds” of your child having autism were greater then your child becoming a professional athlete, or a Grammy award-winning singer.

The campaign was immediately accepted and rapidly became one of the Ad Councils most popular campaigns. In its first year, the “Odds” campaign was ranked among the Ad Council’s top ten campaigns, with donated media reaching over 66 million dollars.

Just after we finished the second round of creative the CDC numbers changed from a prevalence of 1 in 166 to 1 in 150. We knew that our messaging was working but we also knew that we needed to make the spots more hard hitting – because the numbers were growing with no signs of a cause.

The team over at BBDO came up with the brilliant idea of turning the “Odds” campaign on its head. Why not show celebrities that beat the odds of becoming tops in their field but didn’t beat the odds of having a child with autism? The challenge then became who was going to be brave enough to show the world that they have a child on the spectrum? Well, we found them. Ernie Els and Toni Braxton. We never could have done the spots without the help of these two professionals who are at the top of their game. These spots helped to drive the message even further home and we saw awareness of autism rise over 20%  among parents of young children.

Then in December of 2009, the CDC announced the latest prevalence statistics, this time to 1 in 110, one in 70 boys.

Autism IS closer than you think.

To quote Ronald Ng, executive creative director, BBDO New York, “It is no longer someone in your distant friend circle; it is becoming a reality within your peers, and even your own family.”

I am proud to introduce you to the new Ad Council campaign created this year by our excellent team over at BBDO. Bob Emerson (Executive TV Producer), Ronald Ng (EVP, Executive Creative Director), Tim Wettstein (Associate Creative Director) and Patrick Herold (Associate Creative Director) worked with award-winning director Lasse Hallstrom to come up with this riveting and powerful ad that really brings this message home. Dan, the young actor in the spot, has a niece on the spectrum and the dad at the end of the commercial is the real father of Max, who is on the spectrum.

Thanks to all the great media outlets out there who continue to give us free space to run these important ads. Thanks also to the Ad Council for taking us on for another three-year campaign. We are sure that this ad will take the message of autism awareness to the next level.

Read Autism Speaks’ press release here.

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Just Like Them

June 21, 2010 2 comments

This is a guest post by Nora Rubovitz, Autism Speaks Family Services Project Manager, and Ali Hines, Family Services Associate Manager of Communications.

A few months ago, the Family Services team received a call from a fourth grade teacher at PS 7 in Brooklyn. Through a “Penny Harvest,” her class had raised $900, $300 of which they decided as a group to donate to Autism Speaks. Last Tuesday, we traveled out to Brooklyn to visit their classroom and accept their generous donation in person.

“This is Nora and Ali from Autism Speaks!” Mrs. Pavane announced to the 100+ students in the auditorium. A little girl in the class walked up to the microphone to announce that she had helped her class choose Autism Speaks because her older brother is on the autism spectrum, and it would mean a lot to her family. We walked up and thanked her very much for thinking of us and sharing information about autism with her class.

“Does anyone know what autism is?” we asked at first. We got little to no response. We didn’t think reciting the DSM-IV criteria would really captivate the fourth grade crowd, so we decided to read the story “Since We’re Friends” so they could understand a bit about the issues faced by children with autism. The book conveyed to our audience that children with autism are just like them; they are fun and wonderful friends who might sometimes need a little bit of support. Much to our surprise, given our recollection of our attention spans at that age, the class seemed fascinated by the story. A boy and his friend with autism were swimming, playing baseball, running around and having fun! The only difference was the few times the boy needed to push his friend a little to make sure he was comfortable and calm. Through reading the story, what may have first sounded to them like a scary disease now came across as something that affects lots of kids. Kids just like them, who they can help, simply by being their friend.

By far the highlight of their morning came next. We decided to play a video filled with pictures and facts to help the class to see a little more about autism. We figured the shorter the video the better for this age group, so we chose a two-minute video often used at Autism Speaks events. We know the kids loved the pictures and were intrigued by the facts displayed, but we could really see their enthusiasm based on the loud claps and high voices coming from the audience while Alicia Keys “No One” played in the background of the video. They were up on their feet singing every word while watching our video. We think Mrs. Pavane learned during our video that all she needed was a little Alicia Keys playing in her math class to really get the group going during multiplication lessons!

At the end of the presentation, we took questions from the group. Hands flew up immediately when Mrs. Pavane asked who would like to ask us something about autism. Is autism contagious? Can you only get it when you’re a little kid? How can I help someone with autism? We were floored by how interested this group of 10-year-olds was in learning more about autism, and how much they wanted to help. We handed out Autism Speaks awareness bracelets, and smiled as the kids walked out wearing their puzzle pieces with pride, armed with a new understanding of autism. One young boy held back from the group as they walked out, and turned to us with a dollar bill: “Here is one dollar for autism.” That, in itself, proved what a wonderful morning it had been. All it took was a simple story and a music video to teach a group of 100 4th graders about autism, and to inspire them to help make a difference in the lives of kids with autism. Kids who are just like them.

The Donnas Tour to Benefit Autism Speaks

June 10, 2010 1 comment

Hard-rock, all-girl band The Donnas are headlining a summer concert tour to promote autism awareness in conjunction with Autism Speaks. The Donnas will be joined by New York-based groups The Click Clack Boom and The Vanguard throughout the tour, along with special guests Elevator Fight, Turbogeist, and Reserve for Ronde on select dates. The tour is sponsored by Gibson, USA, and produced by Andy Hilfiger Entertainment and benefits Autism Speaks. See Dates below.

Dates and Destinations:
June 10 – New York City, NY – The Gramercy Theatre
June 11 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts
June 12 – Cleveland, OH – Agora Theatre and Ballroom
June 13 – Chicago, IL – Double Door

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at www.thedonnas.com. Doors open at 8 p.m. for all shows.

The tour was conceived as a way to promote awareness of autism spectrum disorders. One of the members of The Click Clack Boom has Asperger Syndrome. The tour’s goal is to help others who are affected by a lack of understanding as much as autism itself.

Autism Speaks 400 – Final Day

May 17, 2010 4 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks Blog contributor Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a junior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He is currently working at Autism Speaks as a writer.

Sometimes you don’t have the words to express your amazement at a series of events.  That was me after witnessing the Autism Speaks 400 on Sunday, May 16.  But luckily for the readers, I’ve come back to earth and I’m ready to blog. Enjoy!

Sunday was another great day for driver Kyle Busch.  Busch dominated the weekend.  Almost winning Friday’s Camping Truck Series race, then winning Saturday‘s Heluva Good 200 Nationwide Series race.  On Sunday he completed his great weekend by winning the Sprint Cup Series Autism Speaks 400 Race. What made Kyle so special this weekend was his aggressive, winning attitude. I had the opportunity to watch Kyle accept his trophy in victory lane. That positive, winning mentality was evidenced by the smile on Kyle’s face as he accepted his award.  His confident winning manner is well known on the NASCAR circuit and indicates he will continue his winning ways.

Although many had Kyle winning before the race had even started, driver Jimmie Johnson was competed closely with Kyle all day long.  However, after 365 laps, Johnson had a disastrous pit stop.  He received a passing penalty, which put  him a lap down to Busch, ruining his chances to win. This led to Jimmie Johnson finishing in 16th place.

Two of Sunday’s best stories came from driver Jamie McMurray and FOX Sports Senior Executive and Autism Speaks Board Member Artie Kempner. Both of these gentlemen have done amazing work for NASCAR and also for Autism Speaks. Jamie spent several minutes talking to fans along with giving me an interview. Artie Kempner said it best, “Jamie does more than just drive a race car”. Jamie has a passion for helping others and his family has been touched by Autism. When asked about the race, Jamie said “This is a really cool weekend. Awareness is something unique to our sport. To have a race, not named after a bank or a product, it’s something very special. The race is something very special to me because my niece is autistic.”  Jamie, during the time with the fans signed several autographs and made a lot of people’s days just like mine; special.

As a final note of the day I would just like to thank Jamie, Artie Kempner and the Alpha Xi Delta Sorority for volunteering at three Autism Speaks booths outside of the race way. The Sorority sold Autism Speaks memorabilia to help in the fight against autism.  Finally, I’d like to thank everyone at Autism Speaks, NASCAR, and HERSHEY’S Milk & Milkshakes for such a great weekend.

I’m already looking forward to the race next year and am hoping you enjoyed the blog the past couple of days. As a bonus for our readers, below are several photos from this weekend’s events. Thank you all!

* Read the Day 1 Recap from the Autism Speaks 400
* Read the Day 2 Recap from the Autism Speaks 400

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