Autism Speaks has applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing one of nation’s strongest autism insurance reform measures into law and defended his action in letters-to-the-editor published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
We are excited that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law one of the most comprehensive autism insurance reform measures in the nation, Assembly Bill 8512. This new law requires insurance companies to provide coverage of critical autism therapies for both children and adults. Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright and representatives from New York’s autism community gathered for the bill signing at the Governor’s Office in Albany. For a fact sheet on the new law, go here.
Sponsored in the New York Assembly by Assemblymember Joseph Morelle (D-Monroe) and in the Senate by Sen. Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Nassau,) the new law will provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA). It will take effect in 12 months – on November 1, 2012 – and allow up to $45,000 a year in ABA treatments with no limits on age or number of visits.
Last night was quite a night for Autism Speaks. More than 100 of the nation’s finest chefs put on a culinary extravaganza at the Autism Speaks to Wall Street: 5th Annual Celebrity Chef Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City and was sponsored by Susan and Steven Wise of KRG Children’s Charitable Foundation, Charmz 4 Charity and Puzzlebuilder among other top sponsors. The annual fundraising event – which can easily be described as a foodie paradise – brought together the biggest names in the restaurant world for an amazing evening that raised $1.6 million for Autism Speaks’ research and advocacy initiatives.
The event was emceed by NBC’s “Minute to Win It” host and Food Network personality Guy Fieri, and co-hosted by CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl and Lee Brian Schrager of Southern Wine and Spirits of America. It featured a cocktail reception, auction and the unique experience of four-course tableside cooking by nationally acclaimed chefs such as Bravo’s “Top Chef” lead judge Tom Colicchio (Colicchio & Sons); Franklin Becker (Abe & Arthur’s, Catch and Lexington Brass); Todd English (ÇaVa Brasserie); Masaharu Morimoto (MORIMOTO); Wylie Dufresne (WD-50); Terrance Brennan (Artisanal, Picholine); Food Network’s “Chopped All-Stars” champion Nate Appleman (Chipotle) and “Iron Chef” winner Katsuya Fukushima (Daikaya Restaurant). Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright served as the evening’s honorary co-chairs and Jennifer and Franklin Becker, Susan and Philip Harris, Alison and Duncan Niederauer, and Suzanne and Shawn Rubin served as the event co-chairs.
Highlights from the event include Guy calling Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr and KRG Chairman Steven Wise onstage for a “Minute to Win It” contest of stacking apples. Wise wowed the crowd by balancing five apples in about three seconds for the victory! Guests were also treated to a special performance by Rex Lewis-Clack, a young pianist and vocalist who is faced with the challenges of blindness and autism, and opera singer Sam McElroy, who has been coaching Rex on his singing. Introduced by his friend Lesley Stahl, Rex captivated everyone in attendance and received numerous standing ovations. It was a truly masterful performance that equaled the efforts of the illustrious chefs who graciously donated their time and talents to Autism Speaks on a wonderful evening.
On Monday, September 26, 2011, Autism Speaks celebrated its 2nd Annual Autism Speaks Fall Classic at the illustrious Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ. Joined by Title Sponsor ShopRite and Tournament Sponsor GTS-Welco, we hosted an exciting afternoon golf tournament and evening reception that raised over $268,000 for Autism Speaks’ research and advocacy initiatives! The tournament kicked off with a shotgun start on Baltusrol’s famed lower course and featured several contests, including the US Bancorp Million-Dollar Shootout, prizes distributed for the longest drive and the Bachman Putting Contest where qualifiers could compete to win a $10,000 prize.
The day wrapped up with evening cocktails, and a silent and live auction which offered guests an opportunity to help fund Autism Speaks’ initiatives for adults with autism. Honorary Co-chair and Autism Speaks Co-founder Bob Wright showed a highlight video from the second annual “Light It Up Blue” initiative on World Autism Awareness Day, on April 2. He also honored longtime Autism Speaks supporter Joe Kernan, host of the CNBC’s popular morning show “Squawk Box.” Event Co-chair and President of the Bachman Company Scott Carpenter welcomed another honoree, fourth grader Zachary Brooks, a tireless advocate for Autism Speaks whose twin brother, Jack, is affected by autism. Carpenter also introduced a special “thank you” video message on behalf of his fellow Co-chairs: his wife Suzie, John and Nico Sumas of ShopRite, Peter and Heather Kapsimalis, and Anne and Dave St. Clair. The video summed up why it’s so important to help raise awareness and funds for Autism Speaks, and expressed gratitude to everyone involved in making the Fall Classic such a special day.
Autism Speaks was proud to be given this year’s Title Sponsor of the Speed Derby competition at the Hampton Classic Horse Show in Bridgehampton ,N.Y. This is Autism Speaks first year as a title sponsor, thanks to the generosity of The Geier Group, who paid for the sponsorship, many families with autism on Long Island received complimentary tickets to the event.
The Hampton Classic, now celebrating its 36th year, is an internationally renowned tradition featuring world-class hunter, equitation and show-jumping competitions. Throughout the week, Autism Speaks used the event as a platform to call attention to the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders, which are currently estimated to affect one in 110 children in the U.S.As one of the top competitions in the country, the Classic draws professional and amateur riders from across the nation. The Horse Show ran from Sunday, August 28 through Sunday, September 4. The Autism Speaks Speed Derby was held before many spectators on Friday, September 2.
“We are extremely grateful for The Geier Group’s generosity in providing this unique opportunity to raise awareness about autism to a new audience,” said Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks. “We also wish to express our gratitude to the Hampton Classic organizers for recognizing the need to spread a message of support for the millions families affected by this public health crisis.
To read more about the background of the classic, click here.
* The Geier Group is a consulting/advisory firm that provides services in marketing, communications and venture capital – its chairman, Philip Geier, serves on Autism Speaks board of directors.
Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright both received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letter degree at the 38th Commencement of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) in Worcester on June 5, 2011. When presenting their diplomas, Chancellor Mike Collins noted the global nature of Autism Speaks saying “the mission of Autism Speaks is being heard around the world.” He also shared that UMMS has participated in Autism Speaks Light it Up Blue campaign for the past two years.
Also receiving honorary degrees were Donna Shalala and Arthur Pappas, M.D. Shalala, who gave the commencement address, is the president of the University of Miami, the first woman to lead a Big Ten university and the longest-serving Secretary of Health and Human Services in U.S. history. Dr. Pappas is considered the first UMMS surgeon and through his talent transformed the lives of countless children as well as served as the medical director for the Boston Red Sox.
The commencement was especially poignant because the graduates are all embarking on careers in medicine – to help individuals and families struggling with diseases, disorders and illness. Among the degree recipients could be the hope for the future of autism research, treatment or diagnosis. President Shalala may have put it best when she presented challenges to the 2011 graduates on several issues “It’s not a disease that you’re interacting with, but a person, and that person isn’t a case, or a claim, or a subject, but an individual with a heart and a soul.”
See some press coverage of the event here:
Worcester Telegram and Gazette
UMass Medical graduates hear messages of compassion
Autism Speaks Co-Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright Receive Honorary Degrees at Saint Joseph’s University
Autism Speaks Co-Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright received Honorary Degrees at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 14. The Wrights were recognized for their professional accomplishments, particularly, the vision and leadership in founding and building Autism Speaks – North America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. SJU awarded honorary degrees to Bob and Suzanne in recognition of their selfless dedication to, and for, others.
During their time on the SJU campus the Wrights visited the university’s new Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support. The mission of the Center is to provide multi-disciplinary education and research opportunities for students, teachers, professionals, and parents who seek to improve and extend opportunities, outcomes, quality of life and best practices in treatment for people withAutism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The Center offers services, resources, and information; support and guidance; and tools for public and individual advocacy that contributes to improved autism awareness and care. Additionally, students who minor in autism education receive hands-on training at the facility.
Here are photos from the Kinney Center and the Graduation Exercises
To read the Wright’s 2011 St. Joseph’s University Commencement Address, please click here.
On Monday April 11th Suzanne and Bob Wright, Founders of Autism Speaks, were interviewed by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell in recognition of April as the nation’s month for autism awareness. Key points discussed – funding for research and adults with autism.
On Wednesday, April 6, Autism Speaks joined the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the U.N. and the U.N. Department of Public Information at the United Nations to present Solving the Autism Public Health Puzzle: Regional and International Collaboration, a panel discussion on autism. The United States Mission to the U.N. also co-sponsored the event, which was streamed live on the U.N. website. (Watch archived video of the whole event here or view it below).
United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon opened the event talking about the U.N.’s commitment to raising autism awareness and creating greater acceptance. “This day is a call to action for all of us who want a more compassionate and inclusive world,” said the Secretary-General. “We have to raise funds to turn workable solutions into practical actions.”
He was followed by Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and Mr. Fredrick D. Barton, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council of the U.N. Suzanne and Bob Wright also addressed the several hundred dignitaries and families affected by autism in attendance. They updated the audience on Autism Speaks successful Light It Up Blue Campaign, where 1400 buildings turned blue in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day. A video recapping all of the Light It Up Blue activities ran just before the Wrights’ presentation. Suzanne Wright commented on a new collaboration with the U.N. “Through these kinds of meetings, we are making tremendous headway to increased awareness. This translates to innovative research, improved services and better treatments for families.”
The international coalition in attendance represented a wide array of countries. The participation of the some of the world’s top dignitaries demonstrated a striking endorsement of global efforts to raise autism awareness. Members of the audience, which included Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, wife of the U.N. Secretary-General, took part in an interactive panel discussion on autism moderated by Russ Mitchell, CBS Weekend Evening News and CBS Saturday Early Show Anchor. Panelists included Professor Saima Wazed Hossain, Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh; Shekhar Saxena, M.D., Director, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization; Amy Gravino, Asperger’s Syndrome College Coach and Self-Advocate and Geri Dawson, Ph.D., Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer. The panelists discussed an international pathway to raise global awareness and promote research into this non-discriminative disorder. Amy Gravino was particularly poignant sharing her personal struggles with autism, but concluded her story with a message of hope that visibly resounded with audience members, “It is my wish that individuals with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome all across the world will know their own strengths – the skills, the abilities and things they’re capable of, rather than the things they’re not capable of.”
The event was an amazing show of support for the global autism community and a promise of a longstanding partnership.
NBC Icon Bob Wright in a candid discussion on autism and how the advertising & media business has helped make Autism Speaks a household name
On Friday, October 1 Autism Speaks was featured during Advertising Week, New York City’s preeminent media conference for advertisers. Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks and former Chairman and CEO of NBC Universal and Vice Chair of GE participated in a discussion about autism and advertising. Bob had one of the longest and most successful tenures of any media company chief executive with more than two decades at the helm of one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies leading from 1986 to 2007. He was joined by Andrew Robertson, CEO of BBDO Worldwide and a member of Autism Speaks’ Board of Directors, who moderated the discussion.
In the one hour seminar Bob discussed how he has applied his knowledge from the corporate world to the non-profit sector, and how Autism Speaks has succeeded in making autism a household word. Both he and Andrew shared the story of how they started Autism Speaks award-winning Ad Council public service announcement campaign thanks to the support of BBDO, an elite world renowned advertising agency, and the Ad Council. Since its inception, it’s garnered over $249 million dollars in donated media resulting in much needed awareness for families and has ultimately led to fundraising dollars for the needed research into the cause and treatments for autism.
Over the last five years, under Bob and Suzanne’s leadership, and with the help of hundreds of volunteers, Autism Speaks has emerged as the largest autism science and advocacy organization in the world. And autism has moved to the fore of the public’s consciousness – nationally and globally — in large part due to Autism Speaks’ innovative and highly effective awareness initiatives.