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.
On Tuesday night, The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) held its sixth annual Honors Dinner benefit to acknowledge several individuals who have made a difference in the lives of others on with Asperger Syndrome. Held at The William Bennett Gallery located in the NYC arts district of SoHo, it consisted of several different parts including a light dinner, a silent auction, and then a lecture with several different speakers both on the spectrum and not.
The silent auction featured prizes New York Mets tickets and a VIP Broadway package, among many other prizes.
The host of the night was none other than GRASP Executive Director Michael John Carley who led the way with the opening events starting followed by presenting several awards. Michael John Carley brought an energy to the night that was truly magical from a inspiring individual towards the cause. One quote Michael John said at the beginning which truly struck me was this:
“The day, in 50 years, 30 years, whenever it may be, when an adult on the spectrum hasn’t had all those banana peels, and hasn’t had those mistakes that were not made by bad people but based on the social Darwinist growth that all of this is on and when that person grows up into adulthood without this anxiety, anger, and depression we’re not going to recognize what an adult with autism and Asperger Syndrome looks like and that’s going to be a beautiful sight.”
Linda Walder Fiddle was the first honoree of the night accepting the FAB (Friend and Benefactor Award). Ms. Fiddle was the Founder of The Daniel J. Fiddle Foundation that was named after her son Daniel Fiddle. Ms. Fiddle said, “None of this would be possible without one special ingredient, “Enthusiasm”, she followed up by saying, “Nothing ever great was achieved without enthusiasm. You have the power to light your enthusiasm with the warmth of your heart.” This spoke home to me and was one of the themes I noticed throughout the night regardless whether it was Michael John or Linda or any of the several attendees at the event.
Lois Rosenwald was the second honoree of the night accepting the DNA (Divine Neurotypical Award). Ms. Rosenwald works at The Connecticut Autism Spectrum Resource Center. She said, “When I dream, I dream of a world where individuals on the autism spectrum are accepted and included; where people’s differences are routinely accepted. My work has been driven by the inadequacies of the system that we live with, a system that often refuses to provide appropriate supports and services to our adults. A system that often ignores the opinions held by those on the spectrum as to what services they need and how those services can most effectively be offered. A system where individuals challenges are more important than their strengths and their patterns. We have asked our senior work to change this work in Connecticut and in most ways we think we have succeeded.”
John Elder Robison was the final winner of the night who accepted the DSM (Distinguished Spectrumite Medal) for his work on science. Mr. Robison, who has Asperger’s, was able to speak about his own experience, along with his work, so elegantly. He used his early life and examples of how his ability to have Asperger was a strength where he could focus on specific areas of work.
Malachy McCourt, an Irish American actor, writer and politician was also in attendance for the event and did a wonderful job to grab everyone’s attention. Mr. McCourt was the celebrity auctioneer for the night who gave it all of his might to sell the auction items that’s total would end up going towards GRASP. Along with singing, joking, and pulling the leg of most in attendance, Mr. McCourt was a sweet and caring individual who cares very deeply towards GRASP’s mission.
In concluding I just wanted to say thank you to all those from GRASP along with William Bennett Gallery who made this night possible. I was astounded by the event and only hope the best for GRASP in their future pursuits. As I told Michael John Carley, “anything you need is what I’ll be willing to bring.” This is the impact they made on me and hopefully the impact they will make towards people for years to come in the fight to help those with Asperger Syndrome and autism.