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The 11th Annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach Draws Big Crowd for Autism Awareness in Florida

March 4, 2012 2 comments

On Sunday, March 4, 2012 – More than 7,000 people, including individuals with autism, their families and friends attended the Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach at City Commons in Downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. The Walk has raised over $344,000 so far, all of which will support Autism Speaks’ work, both locally and nationally fund innovative autism research and family services, to increase awareness about the growing autism health crisis, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families in Palm Beach and beyond.

The event was emceed by NBC News Channel 5’s West Palm Beach Anchor, Michael Williams. Honorary Chairs Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, addressed the crowd with moving speeches, motivating everyone to Light It Up Blue on April 2 and demanding action for the passage of the Achieving Better Life Experience Act (A.B.L.E – legislation allowing families raising children with disabilities to save tax-free for their future needs) in congress.

Walk Corporate Chair Denise Negron, Chair Laura Pincus and Co-chairs Amy Schwartz and Debra Rosenfeld along with their amazing Walk Committee and 200+ volunteers made sure that the morning went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, the one thing out of their control was the weather. In the interest of public safety, the actual Walking portion of the day was canceled due to severe storms and high winds. The activities surrounding the Walk, though, were enjoyed by the thousands of walkers who came out for the event.  Before the weather became a factor however, the second annual Run before the Walk took place with more than 200 runners lacing up for autism awareness.

SheKnows.com, the online living magazine, was on hand to promote their “She Knows Where the Other Sock Went” dress. The campaign features Autism Speaks’ long-time supporter and Grammy Award Winner Toni Braxton wearing the dress created by celebrity designer Michael Costello and photographed by renowned fashion photographer Nigel Barker. The unique, high-fashion gown made out of socks that are missing their mates was displayed at the Walk and will next travel to Los Angeles later this spring to be auctioned off with all proceeds benefiting Autism Speaks.

For the sixth straight year, Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us proudly serves as the North American sponsors of Walk Now for Autism Speaks. The company’s mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, stopped by the Walk to meet and take pictures with walkers. Additional sponsors included: Sandra C. Slomin Foundation and Family Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, South Florida Ford, TD Bank, Palm Beach Gardens Whole Foods Market, Palm Beach Spine and Diagnostics, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network – Striano Financial Group, St. Mary’s Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital at Palms West, and Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart, & Shipley, Gunster, and the Miami Marlins.

Also taking pictures with families was beloved McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald. People visited the MedClaim booth for their chance to win a free iPad and South Florida Ford Dealers provided an Official Pace Car for the start of the Walk. They also made generous donations for everyone who logged into their Facebook page. Children from Allamanda Elementary wow’d everyone with a dance, The Exceptional Theater Company entertained the crowd with a song, and Makayla Kelly kicked off the Walk with the National Anthem.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks are the signature fundraising events for Autism Speaks, raising more than $28.5 million in 2011 in 85 cities across the U.S. and Canada to support autism research, awareness and advocacy. Last year’s Walk Now for Autism Speaks Palm Beach event attracted more than 7,000 walkers and raised over $390,000 for families and individuals. Autism Speaks has provided funding to Palm Beach services providers, including Project LifeSaver through our Family Services Community Grant program. Autism Speaks science grants have supported research at The University of Miami and Florida International University.

For more information about the 2012 Palm Beach Walk Now for Autism Speaks visit http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org or contact palmbeach@autismspeaks.org or (954) 421-9997.

To see an interview with Bob Wright, please click here.  To see emcee Michael Williams thank Suzanne and Bob Wright, click here.

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Suzanne and Bob Wright interviewed about upcoming Palm Beach Walk Now for Autism Speaks

Watch an interview with Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright about the upcoming Palm Beach Walk Now for Autism Speaks. The Wrights discussed Autism Speaks and its mission with Michael Williams of WPTV. Plus, read coverage of the event from the Palm Beach Daily News.

The Palm Beach Walk takes place on Sunday, March 4.  Visit www.walknowforautismspeaks.org to find a Walk in your area.

Inaugural Weekly Whirl – Top Events of the Week

December 10, 2011 2 comments

If anyone knows how hectic life can get – WE DO! That’s why we have created the Autism Speaks Weekly Whirl to fill you in on all of the highlights of the week! The last thing we want is for you to be left out of the loop! Please share with friends and family to spread the word about all of the exciting things going on in the autism community. Keep in mind, these updates aren’t limited to Autism Speaks — we will be featuring news from across the community.

A Funny Affair Honoring Tommy Hilfiger
On Monday December 5, 2011 Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright and New York Center for Autism (NYCA) Co-founders Laura and Harry Slatkin honored iconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger for his commitment to increasing awareness and support of the autism community at A Funny Affair for Autism – a star-studded evening of fashion and comedy that helped raise over 1.3 million dollars for individuals with autism and their families.

New York Center for Autism Co-founders Harry & Laura Slatkin, Martha Stewart, fashion designer and Honoree Tommy Hilfiger, Honorary Chair Dee Hilfiger, Emcee and NBC Nightly News Correspondent Peter Alexander, Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne & Bob Wright

Blue Tie Blue Jean Ball
On December 1, the Los Angeles Chapter held the inaugural Blue Tie Blue Jean Ball. Over 700 people packed the House of Blues on the world famous Sunset Strip to hear the incomparable, beloved and ever gracious Sarah McLachlan sing some of her biggest hits.  She was introduced by autism mom and Grammy Award-winning singer Toni Braxton.   The show was hosted by comedian Sinbad, who also handled the live auction with humor and zip.  Other music performers were “American Idol” contestant Brooke White, Lucy Schwartz and Diane Birch.  Attendees included Autism Speaks National Board Member Holly Robinson Peete with her husband Rodney Peete, Matt Dallas, J.K. Simmons, Mark Salling, Ed Asner, and “Parenthood” cast members Mae Whitman, Sarah Ramos, Max Burkholder and Miles Heizer.

Sarah Mclachlan

Autism Speaks Headed to Albania
Hear from Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr as he shares about his trip to Albania for the opening of  the Albanian Children Foundation’s Regional Centre for Autism. Liri Berisha, M.D., and her husband the Prime Minister, Mr. Sali Berisha, took every opportunity to note that without Autism Speaks and Suzanne and Bob Wright, none of this would be possible.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Dr. Liri Berisha with Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr and his wife Chris

QBE $75,000 Gift to Autism Speaks
On December 7, 2011 Autism Speaks received a  $75,000 QBE Foundation Grant from QBE Americas. The grant will fund the development of the Employment Tool Kit. We are thrilled and thankful for their generosity!

From the President: An Eye-opening Visit to Albania

December 9, 2011 1 comment

This post is by Mark Roithmayr, President of Autism Speaks.

It is before dawn and I am about to depart Albania. What we have learned about autism, Autism Speaks, Albania, and our role in the world is almost too overwhelming and humbling to put into words.

I was there to celebrate the opening of the Albanian Children Foundation’s Regional Centre for Autism, dedicated to helping children with developmental disabilities to receive a diagnosis, appropriate treatment and services.

Liri Berisha, M.D., and her husband the Prime Minister, Mr. Sali Berisha, took every opportunity to note that without Autism Speaks and Suzanne and Bob Wright, none of this would be possible. What a statement! As I looked at the new Centre I was in awe of all they had accomplished in a country the size of Albania. What an amazing accomplishment – and the hope they are now providing to the autism community in Albania was palpable.

In between attending events and dinners, my wife and I visited Albania’s first autism center that has been seeing families the past two years. We witnessed the wonders of the first children receiving ABA therapy in Albania and the success they have had. We met with the therapists, administrators, and Ministers who are now developing the nation’s first National Autism Strategy. And then, in the new Centre, we presented to parents who literally had tears in their eyes because of the hope that is now becoming reality for their children.

The day Suzanne got the UN to unanimously approve the creation of a World Autism Awareness Day made all of this possible. One of our many achievements is making autism a global initiative. Our Global Autism Public Health (GAPH) initiative is moving this forward at an amazingly rapid pace. We are moving nations and bettering the lives of children and families around the globe – and not by ourselves, but by helping other countries to learn from our experiences and providing guidance to create their own programs.

We are one organization among many. We are largely supported by families – those who walk and fundraise, one dollar at a time, to change the world. It’s working.

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A Funny Affair Honoring Tommy Hilfiger

December 6, 2011 3 comments

On Monday December 5, 2011 Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright and New York Center for Autism (NYCA) Co-founders Laura and Harry Slatkin honored iconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger for his commitment to increasing awareness and support of the autism community at A Funny Affair for Autism – a star-studded evening of fashion and comedy that helped raise over 1.3 million dollars for individuals with autism and their families.

Hosted by NBC Nightly News Correspondent Peter Alexander, the unprecedented event took place at The Plaza Hotel and drew over 400 guests who were treated to a hilarious comedic performance by “Saturday Night Live” stars Seth Meyers and Bill Hader and a special musical performance by the NYCA Charter School. In addition, comedian and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Susie Essman and Lydia Fenet of Christie’s led an entertaining auction of celebrity designed Christmas trees and menorahs, courtesy of QVC and Bethlehem Lights. The menorahs and trees raised nearly $65,000 and featured festive creations by Martha Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, Tommy Hilgier, Adam Sandler, Jonathan Adler, Tiffany & Co., Isaac Mizrahi, and artisans at Godiva.

Tommy Hilfiger, who was presented with the evening’s award by friend and CNN national correspondent Alina Cho, has a longstanding relationship with Autism Speaks as an advocate. Along with his wife, Dee, he co-hosted the Third Annual World Focus on Autism, which brought together first spouses from around the world to discuss solutions to combat the global crisis of autism. In addition, Hilfiger donated his time to appear in Autism Speaks’ new Ad Council public service announcement to help raise awareness about the one in 110 odds of being diagnosed with autism and encourage the public to learn its early warning signs.

All proceeds raised during the evening will go towards Autism Speaks’ research into the causes, prevention, and treatments for autism; as well as to help fund the NYCA, a regional non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals and families living with autism spectrum disorders.

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Media coverage and additional photos from the event:

Wall Street Journal: “A Serious Subject Gets Comic Relief” 

Bloomberg: Scene Last Night

Starting Our Laughs Early Before Tonight’s ‘A Funny Affair’ Honoring Tommy Hilfiger

December 5, 2011 1 comment

Tonight Autism Speaks and the New York Center for Autism (NYCA) will host “A Funny Affair for Autism” at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Proceeds will benefit Autism Speaks and NYCA. The event will honor Tommy Hilfiger and will feature Seth Meyers and Bill Hader.

This evening is Co-Chaired by Laura & Harry Slatkin and Suzanne & Bob Wright with Dee Hilfiger serving as Honorary Chair. Jonathan Adler & Simon Doonan, Sir Elton John, Ralph Rucci, Adam Sandler, Robert & Michelle Smigel and Vera Wang & Arthur Becker are the event Vice-Chairs.

The event will feature a unique auction of Christmas trees and menorahs designed by Jonathan Adler, Godiva, Tommy Hilfiger, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” Isaac Mizrahi, Adam Sandler, Martha Stewart and Tiffany & Co.

In early November, we launched our latest “Odds” PSAs with the Ad Council. Created pro bono by BBDO, the PSAs feature fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger and NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray, who both generously donated their time to help further the cause of autism awareness. Viewers are taken on voyages through Hilfiger and McMurray’s lives that highlight the extraordinary statistical odds they each overcame on the road to success compared to the startling one in 110 odds of having a child diagnosed with autism. The PSAs end by encouraging parents to visit autismspeaks.org/signs to learn the signs of autism and to seek early intervention if a delay is suspected.

Here’s What We Are Laughing At Today!

t&a: wedding dance (the ORIGINAL youtube surprise wedding dance)

Bieber After the Dentist

Photo Credit: foodiebuddha.com

2011: A Year of Advocacy Accomplishments

December 1, 2011 2 comments

Tis the season to reflect back on the year’s achievements.

2011 was a banner year for Autism Speaks – and for the autism community in general.  Some of the most significant milestones were reached in the area of public policy.

This year, incredible strides forward were made when Congress passed the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA), authorizing an additional $693 million in federal funding for autism research, treatments and services over the next three years. In September, President Obama signed the bill with Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright, and Board Member Billy Mann and his family attending the Oval Office ceremony.

Needless to say, this is an incredible win for the autism community which will help advance the support for individuals with autism.

2011 also ends with autism insurance reform laws on the books in 29 of the 50 states, with the addition of California, New York and four other states this year.  This means that more health services will be covered for more people living with autism.

Our fight is far from over.  We won’t be satisfied until all 50 states have enacted autism insurance reform so families no longer have to worry about how to pay for the instrumental development and medical needs of their family members.

Join the fight and support Autism Speaks advocacy efforts to help us hit the ground running in 2012.

Donate now.

(l to r) Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ); Scott Badesch, president, Autism Society of America; George Jesien, executive director, Association of University Centers on Disabilities; President Obama; Suzanne and Bob Wright, Autism Speaks Co-founders; Gena, Jasper and Billy Mann, Autism Speaks.

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