For the third consecutive year, Autism Speaks Canada partnered with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s (MLSE) Team Up Foundation, for two autism awareness nights with the Leafs and Raptors on April 5th and 6th. Participation from Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, former Leaf and Stanley Cup winner Brad May along with coaches, players and broadcast staff helped make both nights resounding successes. Special recognition to the Maplewood High School Drum band who performed at the Raptors half-time show and our incredible team of volunteers from top-performing Toronto Walk teams, Toys”R”Us and Spinmaster who set a 50-50 ticket sales record in selling out during Leafs game and helped to raise over $14,000 over the combined 2 nights.
Read more, see pictures and videos here.
We are thrilled to have the National Basketball Association partnering with us to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. The league, teams, and players will be showing their support for World Autism Awareness Day and raising awareness of autism. NBA coaches and local broadcasters will be sporting the Autism Speaks lapel puzzle pin. And NBA TV will be lighting their studio blue on April 2nd.
The NBA has been so generous and creative in raising awareness for autism, and here are some of the ways! Several team arenas and surrounding locations will be lit up blue. Puzzle piece cookies will be on sale, Autism Speaks public service announcements will be broadcasts on jumbo vision screens and Autism Speaks concourse tables will be set up to readily hand out information to fans. Some teams are donating a portion of ticket sales to Autism Speaks, while others are turning their interior lights blue during halftime!
Thank you so much to the National Basketball Association, NBA Cares, and all of the teams and players involved in World Autism Awareness Day! And don’t miss the NBA Cares video below with Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.
This guest post is by Autism Speaks Blog contributor 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.
On April 14, over 450 guests gathered at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for “Tip-Off for a Cure,” an evening to benefit Autism Speaks and The Gillen Brewer School which raised over $1.3 million. The evening was emceed by Sportscaster and Basketball Hall-of-Famer Marv Albert and honored former Senator Bill Bradley, a Managing Director of Allen & Company, LLC; FedEx Corporation; Robert A. Kindler, Vice Chairman & Global Head of Mergers & Acquisitions, Morgan Stanley; and Klaus Kleinfeld, President, CEO & Director, Alcoa.
One of the evening’s honorees, Bill Bradley, was introduced by his cousin, Taylor Crowe, an adult who has autism. Below is the speech that Taylor wrote and presented at the event:
Hi, everyone. I’m Taylor Crowe. I’m 28 years old, and I’m one of the many ways autism speaks. I’ve given talks about life with autism since I was 19. My goal is to tell as many people as I can what the world is like from the perspective of someone with autism.
As you know, many people with autism cannot talk. I feel extremely fortunate that I’m able to explain my life experiences to people.
Throughout my life, some of the things that happened to me were very positive, while others were negative. One of my reasons for speaking about life with autism is for others to learn from the negative things that happened to me so that in the future, people with autism won’t have such experiences.
I was born in 1981. Like lots of kids my age, my parents have home videos from my childhood. The video of my second birthday shows a happy little boy, laughing, talking and interacting with everyone in my family. Making eye contact. Sharing. There’s no hint of autism. The same is true in another video of me swimming with mom a few days later.
Just after I turned three, though, something happened. I don’t remember it, but my parents have told me about it: just after breakfast one morning I dropped my spoon to the floor, stood up, began crying and then screamed, “Daddy, daddy, my mouth won’t say the words; my mouth won’t say the words!” Within days I lost almost all my ability to speak and I became very, very unhappy. I’ve been told that I quit making eye contact, and also became very uncomfortable whenever someone wanted to hold me or hug me. I cried and screamed … a lot … every day. This, I’ve learned, confused and worried my mom and dad.
My first childhood memory is from sometime between ages three and four. A babysitter named Ann put me to bed, gave me a stuffed toy dog and asked, “You wanna take Snoopy to bed with you?” That seemed really unusual to me because I knew what the cartoon dog Snoopy looked like, and this dog looked totally different. I couldn’t say the words to explain what I meant. I knew what I wanted to say, but I was frustrated and unhappy because I couldn’t say the words.
My first childhood memory is of knowing words I couldn’t get my mouth to say.
Ann also gave me a toy rabbit to play with that spring. She called it Bugs Bunny. Once again, I knew what Bugs looked like, and this rabbit didn’t look anything like him, but I couldn’t explain myself.
What’s your first childhood memory? Mine is of terrible frustration: of knowing words, but not being able to say them.
After my autism took over and I started acting differently, mom and dad first thought I was just having trouble adjusting to having a new little brother around, but things kept getting worse. Before long, they knew something else was going on. They took me to a famous hospital where a psychiatrist diagnosed me with autism. He told my parents that I’d never have any friends, never live independently, never be able to drive a car, never be married, and never ever even be in a regular classroom with other kids. The doctor also suggested that they consider putting me in an institution when I got older, because he predicted that I’d become violent and unmanageable as a teenager. My parents didn’t know much about autism back then, but what they did know was that it never pays to give up; you always have to keep working at your goals, no matter how hard they might be! The only people who are doomed are those who give up!
Autism is a “spectrum disorder,” which means that autism is a lot of things that seem so similar they’re all given the same name. Some people with autism are high functioning, while others are low functioning. Some children are born with autism and their parents know something is different, even in the hospital nursery. Other children have perfectly normal childhoods until their autism appears, usually between 18 months and three years old. That’s the kind of autism I have: it’s why the video of my fourth birthday is remarkably different from my second birthday video. I was laughing and playing on my second birthday. I’m screaming and crying in my fourth birthday video.
Because of my autism I needed special treatment when I was younger. I started with language therapy when I was four and a half. Over time, this helped me learn how to communicate, and eventually, through the years, how to talk again. Starting at age 10, I had occupational therapy, which helped with my sense of touch and balance. I also had learning disabilities classes and other special needs classes when I was in school. But I was also in mainstream classes whenever I could be, around all the other kids in school as much as possible. All of these things really helped me a lot!
Tonight I’m proud to introduce someone who’s known me all of my life. He knew me when I was a baby, and he knew me when my autism took hold. He saw the changes, and, along with the rest of our family, experienced the confusion and uncertainty that came with my autism. He watched me grow up, and has seen the progression of things that have happened in my life. He’s my cousin, Bill Bradley, former forward for the Knicks in the late 60s and 70s, former U.S. senator, 1996 candidate for president of the United States … and former Student Body President of Crystal City High School in Crystal City, Missouri.
One memory I have of Bill is from when I was 10 ½ years old. We were visiting relatives in Crystal City. Dad had our video camera, so for fun, Bill and I took turns interviewing each other. I asked him about his family, about his life as a basketball player, and about what he really did for a living. I remember some of this by heart, because like many people with autism, I have a pretty good memory. We had a lot of fun that day.
And I think we’ll have fun tonight. Bill is a great speaker, a great friend, and a great cousin. And he’s got a pretty good memory, too. Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Bradley.
Autism Speaks would like to thank our event Co-Chairs, Henry Schacht, Chairman, The Gillen Brewer School; Tim Solso, Chairman and CEO, Cummins Inc.; David Stern, Commissioner, National Basketball Association; Paul Tagliabue, Former Commissioner, National Football League; and Suzanne & Bob Wright, Co-Founders, Autism Speaks, our friends at the Gillen Brewer School and the NBA & WNBA, our Event Committee, Honorees, special guests and many wonderful sponsors and patrons who supported this event to make it a resounding success.