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.
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.
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.
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!
This post is by Phillip Hain, the West Region Director for Autism Speaks.
Ever since my 19 year old son, Andrew, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at the age of 3½, I’ve learned—and shared this sentiment with other parents—that we measure success and milestones on a different chart. I had recently one at the Love Ride, an annual motorcycle event that for 28 years has raised money for various children’s causes. Autism Speaks was fortunate to be the beneficiary for the 2nd consecutive year.
A traffic accident on the freeway caused a major delay getting to the ride’s endpoint and the young man scheduled to sing the national anthem was stuck in traffic. It quickly became apparent he wouldn’t make it in time, even while we were already stretching the program as much as we could. I had this idea that made me feel like the stage manager in an old Hollywood musical movie: Andrew could go on in his place! He loves to sing, has done the national anthem before at one of our Walk Now for Autism Speaks events, has no fear of performing before a crowd, and definitely enjoys being the center of attention.
When I presented him with the idea there was a big surprising response: he didn’t want to do it.
I was really shocked and asked him why and his response had all the indications of being a teenager rather than anything borne out of genuine fear or stage fright. He said, “I’m more into singing pop music now. That doesn’t interest me.” I was simultaneously amused and annoyed so I just tried to reason with him, explaining that he would be doing a big favor because they really needed someone. The next few minutes were a series of him partially agreeing, then changing his mind, my continued pleading mixed with patience, until he finally said, “Ok, I’ll do it.” I wanted to make sure he was comfortable and he said yes.
When he strode onto the stage, you would have thought he was a pro. He started singing and two lines into the song, he broke for a moment to say, “Everybody join me.” Talk about working the crowd for maximum effect! He finished the song to the sound of rousing applause and cheers. (I later read on a blog post about the event that his performance was the highlight of the afternoon.) He was justifiably proud and said, “I’m glad I did it. I made the right decision.”
Many kids—and adults— with autism have an affinity for music and other arts. It calms them and provides the opportunity to express themselves in creative ways, and breaks the stereotype of children completely locked in their own world and unable to emerge. That was certainly confirmed in the Emmy-winning documentary “Autism: The Musical.”
It is with that spirit which inspired our Los Angeles chapter to create an event rooted in music which we are calling the Blue Tie-Blue Jean Ball. It will be a fun, casual, anything-but-boring evening to celebrate music and lift our souls at the House of Blues Los Angeles on December 1. Guess? Jeans has signed on to be our presenting sponsor. We’re fortunate that the incredible Sarah McLachlan has agreed to perform as the headliner at our inaugural show. A few more special guests have strongly hinted that they will drop by for the festivities.
We’re also honoring a fantastic rock music photographer named Rob Shanahan, who has taken some absolutely stunning pictures of the biggest names in the industry. Some of his subjects include Sting, Dave Navarro, Sheila E. and Barry Manilow. And the foreword to Rob’s new book, Volume 1, was written by Ringo Starr. It doesn’t get more impressive than that. Rob’s work will be on display that night and he’ll also be signing books. You can get a sneak peek at his website www.robshanahan.com.
So, if you live in the Los Angeles area, or just made the snap decision to be here December 1, you will treat yourself to an amazing night. And if you have friends or relatives nearby, make sure they plan to attend. You don’t want to be the one who hears them complain, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
The event website is http://events.autismspeaks.org/bluetie.
Check out this great video by CelebrityWire here!