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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

How “Celebrity Apprentice” Evokes Hope

May 17, 2010 7 comments

This is a guest post by Aaron Likens, an adult author who has Asperger Syndrome. You can follow Aaron’s blog at lifeontheothersideofthewall.blogspot.com.

I started watching “The Apprentice” from the first episode in 2004 and have followed it every season since. I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2003 and started writing about my experiences in 2005. As I started to write Finding Kansas I had no idea if anyone would ever read my thoughts or feel with me as I wrote, but in an episode several months after I started to write, a new upstart charity was featured.

In that episode, Suzanne Wright, one of the founders of Autism Speaks, mentioned that their goal was to “give a voice for those who can’t speak”. I was so elated that the autism spectrum got air time and that the message of awareness was delivered through that episode and that elation translated into a deeper passion to share my story. It makes a profound impact when one realizes they aren’t fighting alone, and that episode and that quote was a turning point in my life.

Flash forward to this season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” and once again autism is a topic. Unlike the seasons that started the series that saw players playing for a job in the Trump organization, this season is the third installment of a Celebrity version where celebrities play for their favorite charity. Holly Robinson Peete has a deep connection and passion for her charity, the HollyRod Foundation that benefits those with autism, because she has a son with autism.

Going into Sunday’s episode there were five players left. Quickly the field would be “fired” to just two. Prior records were examined and a task that Holly won raised a non-finale record of $347,893!

The boardroom to determine the final two was an emotional and passionate battle. Sharon Osbourne made several comments about Holly’s huge heart, and Holly’s battle looking at her child each day and also, “I don’t know what I’d do if I had a child that wasn’t well; it’s devastating.”

I was moved by this, I live with being on the autism spectrum each day, and the compassion shown by Sharon towards Holly’s battle was much like that first moment I heard Suzanne Wright on that episode back in 2005.

Holly showed great resolve in these final boardrooms and after being interviewed by the first Apprentice, Bill Rancic, and last season’s celebrity winner, Joan Rivers, it was time for Donald Trump to choose who the final two would be.

The field was reduced to three, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete, and Bret Michaels. Each of the three have a personal tie to their charities and each had been an amazingly strong player in the game. Mr. Trump took his time, and the moments on the television screen probably didn’t give justice to just how intense it was, and in the end Holly Robinson Peete and Bret Michaels made the final.

The final task involves making a new Snapple drink that will utilize their charity in the design. This is no easy task as they must make a 30-second television spot, a three-page ad, and make the drink in just three days.

Who won? The finale is next week and either Bret Michaels or Holly Robinson Peete will hear the words, “You’re hired!” I know who has already won though. Autism is often misunderstood and still there are those that don’t know what it is. For those who have it, or know someone who does, autism is a 24/7 condition that there is no current cure for. For families to see the resolve and passion that Holly Robinson Peete has shown for her cause, she has surely evoked a sense of hope.

I started writing my best work once I knew I wasn’t alone and there was someone out there that knew what autism was and the challenges that goes along with it. That was five years ago, and once again Donald Trump’s television show, “The Apprentice,” may give others that same passion I felt. So, win or lose in the game, Holly Robinson Peete is a winner in more ways than she may ever know.

Autism Speaks 400 Day 2

May 16, 2010 5 comments

TUNE IN UPDATE: Coverage of the “Autism Speaks 400 Presented by HERSHEY’S® Milk & Milkshakes” will air on FOX Sports today, May 16, beginning at 12:00 p.m. EST.  Check your local listings for details.

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.

Hello all and welcome to Day 2 of Race Weekend! Saturday was a terrific day at Dover International Speedway. The day’s events surrounded the Nationwide Series Race. I was on the run all day but got an opportunity to meet several members of the Dollar General Stores Toyota racing team. Many thanks to them for letting me see some of the behind the scenes sights of Race Weekend. Yesterday would not have been the same without your generosity. Now moving on to the races…

Driver Kyle Busch (Combos Toyota) left Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race upset that he let his lead slip away in the final few laps. Saturday, Kyle was prepared to not let the same mistake occur. When the race day was done, Busch (who didn’t run out of fuel today after running out of gas in the Trucks Race) was victorious in the Heluva Good 200 Nationwide Series race (Saturday). Busch, who received a mix of boos and cheers all day from the race fans, shook the boos off as he took the checkered flag at the Monster Mile.  Busch will now try to go for back to back wins as he races Sunday in the Autism Speaks 400 Sprint Cup Series Race.

The other big story from Saturday came from drivers Jamie McMurray (K’Nex Chevrolet) and Reed Sorenson (Dollar General Stores Toyota). Both these drivers and their teams have meant a lot to Autism Speaks in spreading awareness of autism. Both drivers performed admirably with Jamie McMurray finishing in 3rd after starting in pole position 27 and Reed Sorenson finishing in 4th after starting in 14th. Both have a lot to be proud of from finishing as strongly as they did.

We are now down to our final day (Sunday) of Race Weekend. We here at Autism Speaks are expectantly waiting for a thrilling finish (the Autism 400) to what has been an amazing weekend. We will keep you posted through the Autism Speaks Blog (along with Twitter) all day long todayand hope you enjoy what is to come!

*Read the Day 1 Recap from the Autism Speaks 400 

Autism Speaks 400 Day 1

May 15, 2010 7 comments

TUNE IN UPDATE: Coverage of the “Autism Speaks 400 Presented by HERSHEY’S® Milk & Milkshakes” will air on FOX Sports this Sunday, May 16, beginning at 12:00 p.m. EST.  Check your local listings for details.

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.

Autism Speaks is off to the races! Today marked the first day of the Autism Speaks 400 Race Weekend presented by HERSHEY’S Milk & Milkshakes. This was my first day ever at a NASCAR race and first time in the great state of Delaware so I was very excited (to say the least) to be a part of this experience. For the next 3 days I will be sharing with you my thoughts from the races. Without further ado here we go!

Yesterday’s events included the qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday along with a Camping World Truck Series race. Starting off the day, we saw Martin Truex Jr. win the pole for Sunday’s race in his NAPA Toyota. He clocked a lap time of 157.315 mph and will now start the race in the inside of the first row (first pole position). A four time champion at Dover, he will have a chance to continue to build on his impressive Dover resume.

In the Camping World Truck Series race, Aric Amirola (driving for Toyota) won first prize. This was his first NASCAR Truck Race win. Defying expectations, he won this event after Kyle Busch led for a majority of the race.

This was a great way to start Dover Race Weekend. If the upset win of Amirola wasn’t enough, I had the thrill of seeing Autism Speaks blue and white logos painted on many of the cars racing today. These cars, with their logos, symbolize the commitment of Autism Speaks and NASCAR to the effort of autism awareness and finding a cure. One could compare the races to the search for a cure. It will be a long trip (400 miles on Sunday). But even though the race is long, regardless of who wins and who loses, the effort to spread autism awareness will be the ultimate winner when this race weekend is over.

*Read the Day 2 Recap from the Autism Speaks 400 

Get Ready for the Autism Speaks 400!

TUNE IN UPDATE: Coverage of the “Autism Speaks 400 Presented by HERSHEY’S® Milk & Milkshakes” will air on FOX Sports this Sunday, May 16, beginning at 12:00 P.M. EST.  Check your local listings for details.

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.

Autism Speaks and NASCAR have joined once again. For the fourth consecutive year, the Autism Speaks 400 race weekend will be held at Dover International Speedway from May 14-15. The event is made possible through the strong partnership of Autism Speaks, The Dover Speedway and Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes.

As someone new to the NASCAR world, I’m very excited about the events that will be coming up.  I’m transitioning from final exams at college and traveling to the glamorous world of big time motor sports. Aside from this great opportunity for me, this is a great event for Autism Speaks.  Not only will the race bring awareness to the issue of autism in this nation, a percentage of the proceeds from the race will go to the cause of finding a cure.

There will be fierce competition during this race weekend. Currently, the “Chase for the Sprint Cup” is between two drivers, points leader Kevin Harvick (1467) and Jimmie Johnson (1457).  Jimmie Johnson, a 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion could take over first with a strong performance this weekend.

All of us at Autism Speaks are looking forward to a very exciting race and will keep you updated on (via the blog) on all the events that occur during race weekend.

Basic Info: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Autism Speaks 400

  • Where: Dover International Speedway
  • Partnership: Dover Speedway, Autism Speaks, Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes
  • When: May 14-16, 2010 race weekend
  • “Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes.”

The Pin is In!

Who was recently spotted wearing the Autism Speaks puzzle pin? Grammy Award-winning recording artist (and Autism Speaks spokesperson) Toni Braxton!

Check out a clip from this morning’s “TODAY” show, where Toni, her band and her dancers all sported the Autism Speaks pin.

In 2008, Toni, who has a son with autism, recorded a series of PSAs for Autism Speaks.

Want to get your own Autism Speaks puzzle pin? Buy it now at the Autism Speaks online store!

“Tip Off for a Cure”

April 29, 2010 6 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks Blog contributor Kerry Magro.

Dikembe Mutumbo and Kerry Magro

Hello all. My name is Kerry Magro and this is my first-ever post on the Autism Speaks Blog. I’m currently a junior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management and have been recently hired by Autism Speaks as a writer.  I first got involved with Autism Speaks through activities, like the Walks. Since then, I’ve met a lot of great people who are committed to spreading autism awareness. As someone on the autism spectrum, I have joined many others on the spectrum as an advocate myself. Spreading autism awareness has always been a key focus for me. Now that we have introductions out of the way, I hope you will enjoy my first column.

Autism and basketball have successfully been linked in the news before.  An example, three years ago, was when the entire world was introduced to a high school water-boy, turned ESPY Winner, Jason McElwain.

And on Wednesday, April 14, Autism Speaks got into the action as they hosted an event called “Tip Off for a Cure” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s spectacular Temple of Dendur.  The Temple, bathed in blue lights for the evening, (in keeping with the  Autism Speaks Light it Up Blue  campaign theme)  served as the background for a  fundraising dinner gala  benefiting  Autism Speaks & The Gillen Brewer School of New York City. The prior year‘s event, called “Kick Off for a Cure” was retooled with a NBA theme. This year, with major sponsorship from the National Basketball Association foundation “NBA Cares,” the event was chaired by NBA Commissioner David Stern.  Commissioner Stern spoke and brought many members of the NBA family.

This star-studded event, filled with many NBA Legends such as Dikembe Mutumbo, Earl Monroe, Bob Lanier Jr., Gail Goodrich, John Starks, Albert King, Darryl Dawkins and Butch Beard was highlighted by the presence of one of the special honorees of the night, former NY Knicks, NBA player turned US Senator from New Jersey, Bill Bradley. I was privileged to talk to several of the former NBA players about their interest, motivations and participation in the event and the cause.

 “Autism is an Issue that needs to be looked into. Every little bit counts,” former NY Nets player Cliff Robinson said, when discussing his reasons for attending “NBA Cares” events. “They asked me to come out and I couldn’t say no.”

Along with the NBA Players, many prominent business figures were in attendance. Present were Vice Chairman & Global Head of Mergers and Acquisitions at Morgan Stanley Robert A. Kindler and President, CEO and Director of Alcoa Klaus Kleinfield.

While basketball and autism were the two dominant themes of the night, hearing some of the main speakers such as Marv Albert, Suzanne and Bob Wright and especially, Taylor Crowe, made the night truly magical. Taylor Crowe, Bill Bradley’s cousin, who is on the autism spectrum, spoke about his life and his struggles growing up on the autism spectrum. Taylor, who confidently walked to the podium when he was asked to speak by David Stern, addressed the audience for 15 minutes about his life experiences. “You are only doomed if you give up”, Taylor said in relation to his struggles with autism during the years.

No one summed it up better than Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright: “Autism is on the run because Autism Speaks is after it.”, she continued “Michael Jordan once said, ‘Obstacles don’t have to stop you.’ If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it and that is exactly what we do at Autism Speaks.”

I had a lot of great discussions with the guests and wanted to post some of these people’s thoughts so you can see the importance of what Autism Speaks is doing.

The only people who are doomed are those who give up” - Taylor Crowe:  28-year-old honoree, who has autism

Autism is an issue that needs to be looked into. Every little bit counts.” - former NJ Nets player Clifford Robinson

Autism is one of those epidemics that is attacking the fabric of our society right now.” – former NY Knicks and Houston Rockets player Dikembe Mutumbo:

I have a daughter, an 11 year old with Downs Syndrome so this is something I really appreciate and can get into. I reap the benefits from functions like this and to see the kids and see how independent they are its awesome, it’s awesome! I don’t know what it is, but these kids have so much more going on that I wish we could see it the way they see it.  This is my first event and I’m enjoying it.” - former Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz player Darryl Dawkins

A friend of mine has a son who has autism, and as far as my connection with the organization I’m here because the NBA gave me a call and its definitely an issue that really needs to be looked at. New York is a great city, and a very charitable city and what a better place to raise money and to raise awareness for autism than to have it in this beautiful museum, it makes it even better.” - former NY Knicks player John Starks.   

Everyone shared former Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks player, Bob Lanier Jr.’s enthusiasm when he spoke about how excited he was to be at the event: “Well, I traveled a long way to come here because I believe in the cause. David Stern is chairing this event and has been a difference maker all around the world.  Our great athletes are are here to support a wonderful cause and trying to raise not only  awareness about it, because it is not something a lot of us know about. It affects a lot of boys at a very young age. Trying to figure it all out  – got to raise awareness, raise funds and utilize resources and that is what the NBA does really well. I’ve been doing stuff  all around the world for NBA Cares. By raising awareness and using the resources  of NBA Cares, our  brand and our players, we can help draw attention to these needy causes.”

Felipe Lopez of the Orlando Magic commented: “You can look around and see all the top-notch people that are around.  We have to support it – it is a great cause. I am more than thrilled to be part of this event it as an ambassador for NBA cares. I was informed about a month ago about this event and was very excited to attend.  NBA tries to be in programs to help. We always  have to fight to make other peoples lives better. I think it’s a situation where we have to come together and we make it better.”

Rory Sparrow, former Lakers player said, “Autism is one of the major concerns in my country. Autism is so interesting. This interests me, what causes it and ways to prevent it.”

Former NBA all-star Dikembe Mutombo is no stranger to charitable causes.  He built the $30 million, 300-bed Biamba Maria Mutombo Hospital for children back in his home country of Congo. He said, “Autism is something that is a concern for all of us. For so long no one wanted to talk about it; now this being a big issue in our society. We, as parents, need to learn more. As a global ambassador for NBA Cares, I am speaking about concerns facing our youth. Since so many NBA players have children with autism, it is personal issue for us. We are feeling it at home, not just from the outside. But autism is treatable, especially when it is diagnosed early on.”

In response to the question, “Do you believe with the help of a group like Autism Speaks fundraising and raising awareness, can there someday be a cure for autism? He responded with a resounding, “Why not! We have to find a cure. 1 in 110 kids are affected. Maybe we can do better if we put our minds and money behind the cause, and we can do it.”

At the end of the night, as icing on the cake, it was announced that the event had raised more than a million dollars. What a great atmosphere and a great success!  One theme dominated the night - The NBA and NBA Cares truly care about the issue of autism and will be with Autism Speaks every step of the way!

Read more about “Tip Off for a Cure” and view photos and video footage here.

Butch Beard with Kerry Magro

A Day to Remember

April 20, 2010 1 comment

Last month, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh hosted 160 guests for an Autism Awareness Day. An area mother whose family participated in the day’s activities sent us an e-mail and a photo that we couldn’t help but share with you!

Gus and Henry had a fantastic time and we can’t wait to go back. Gus has been talking about how cool it was since we left. His favorite thing was the “text rain” installation – the wall projection of letters drifting to the ground. When you stand in front of it, your shadow can catch the letters. Gus told me he wanted one in his bedroom! He also told me the next day that he would like to bring that letter rain home with him and kiss it. He talked me into cutting out construction paper letters and then hanging them from his ceiling (photo below). He smiles every night looking at it before he falls asleep.

This was the first time our family had visited the Children’s Museum. While I used to say we didn’t go because it was too far and we didn’t have time, the fact is, taking two kids with autism to public places can be sort of tough. My boys absolutely LOVED the museum. We can’t wait to visit again. The staff were great with the kids, and there is just so much cool, fun sensory stuff to do; we can’t stay away. Thank you Children’s Museum and Autism Speaks!

- Ellen Cicconi

Gus' "text rain" installation

Discover New Music While Raising Autism Awareness

everybodyWINS, a “Battle of the Bands”-style online video competition, launched in partnership with ShareTheMic and H2H Media, will join artistry and advocacy by bringing together new music with Autism Speaks’ awareness message. Beginning Monday, April 19, two music videos will “battle” every two days. Your votes will decide who moves on to the next round, and ultimately who earns the chance to represent Autism Speaks.

Visit http://autismspeaks.sharethemic.org/ and vote for your favorite bands each day.

We’d like to thank all of the bands who are helping us raise awareness about autism. We’d also like to thank our great friends at SharetheMic and Oktane Media for putting this amazing competition together!

Autism Awareness Month Kickoff at Brandeis University

April 16, 2010 1 comment

This is a guest post by Jake Crosby. Jake is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University who is double majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Social Policy.

On March 19, a Friday night, SPECTRUM – the autism awareness organization at Brandeis University, threw its first-ever related event in conjunction with Brandeis’s B-deis Records. The time was from 9 p.m. to midnight, and the place was Chalmondley’s – the coffee house on campus, popularly known as “Chums.” An array of bands from every genre of music from techno, to folk, to fusion, to alternative rock, came to perform at an event hosted by Brandeis records. For that night, all these diverse groups had but one thing in common: they were raising money and awareness for autism.

Throughout the event I was overjoyed to see the enthusiasm of all my fellow students present. It was a gathering unlike one I had ever seen before. These students, most of whom I previously had nothing to do with, presumably because of the virtual wall built up between us by my condition, were now here to show their support for those affected by the disability that has separated them and I until then.

After a flurry of announcements towards the beginning, I had my minute or two of fame when the microphone was turned over to me, where I was introduced as “Jake Crosby from the autism spectrum.” I then spoke about our club, the event, and I encouraged people to donate money to the families of Massachusetts affected by autism (Brandeis is located in Waltham, Mass., nine miles west of Boston).

Then the performance continued with the talented groups going up and playing, while throughout telling the audience emphatically to donate money for autism. The night was kicked off with Jess Saade and Fizz, who were followed by Tess Razer, a techno duo who were performing their first performance ever. They sure got off to a great start. They were followed by Zoey Hart and Paul Gale, who played an authentic folk duet. Doug Moore then went up who taught everyone what a great performance you can give with just an acoustic guitar, followed by the IceKimonians – an all-Asian alternative rock group who managed to fool everyone, or at least myself, into thinking they were Japanese – they weren’t. All these groups, in spite of their shockingly different musical tastes, all had one great thing in common: they were relentless in telling everyone to donate for autism, and in spreading awareness for the disorder at the end of each song.

One performer, Lisa Fitzgerald, and in my view one of the best musicians, even correctly stated the current prevalence of the disorder – 1%! After her, came the last act, when an enormous fusion group of about seven or so people called “Code Rad” got up to give the ending finale – a dazzling performance of guitars, basses, drums, saxes and horns. It was by far the largest group to have performed all night, a night to remember.

We did fairly well for donations. I did not count the precise amount, but from my brief glance at the collections box, I could tell we had a considerably generous audience, thanks largely in part to the persistence of the musicians in telling everyone to give to this good cause. I am very thankful to all them for their work and also thankful to B-Deis Records for putting on this event for us, especially Charley Wolinsky for being such a great announcer, not to mention Chums for hosting the event. I would also like to thank Fizz, who really helped make this even turn out to be as successful as it was. Last but not least, one person who particularly deserves credit for making this all happen is my fellow co-founder, Lauren Grewal, for setting it up in the first place.

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