Autism Hero Project inaugural fundraiser a huge success
The Autism Hero Project, a nonprofit that began in 2016 to help families with children on the autism spectrum, raised more than $14,000 during its inaugural fundraiser dinner and silent auction event at Brazil Express Churrasco Grill in Schaumburg.
More than 130 guests, most of whom dressed in blue -- one of the colors for autism awareness -- came to support the nonprofit, network with others and learn more about this behavioral disorder that has no cure.
All proceeds went toward purchasing medical insurance to help these children gain access to Applied Behavior Analysis therapy and other options to help them communicate, increase skills important to daily life and develop friendships.
Tamika Lecheé Morales, Autism Hero Project's president, explained that by combining the event's proceeds and monies from other smaller fundraisers, Autism Hero Project will fund more than $22,000 for 2019.
"We were so grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our guests at this inaugural event," she said.
Morales explained that Autism Hero Project was the original vision of Daniel Blank, CEO and founder of The Place For Children With Autism, which provides Applied Behavior Analysis therapy in a preschool setting in Chicago and Urbana. Through an acquaintance, Morales met Blank, who learned about her son Maximilian, known as Maxim, who has autism.
Blank wanted someone to create a concept to help local families afford this therapy and he would provide the seed money to get it started. In 2017, Morales took Blank up on his offer to take a leadership role as a desire to do more than just create autism awareness, but to activate others to create a world that is inclusive of those like her son.
"When I was thinking about the idea for the Autism Hero Project, I thought that this would be more of a grass-roots organization that can have a direct impact in the community as opposed to larger organizations," Blank said.
"With Autism Hero Project, it can have a direct impact on neighbors and colleagues. It has the ability to really have an impact to change a child's life."
It was not easy for Tamika to share Maxim's diagnosis with her friends and family and kept it from them for nearly two years. She found the courage to write about her son's diagnosis in the book "Today's Inspired Latina Vol. III." This book series highlights successful Latinas, such as Morales, who have overcome obstacles.
"Writing kind of healed me, and although I was in the closet about my son's diagnosis, it helped me to heal and realize the beauty in his autism, something that I was too blind to see before. And so I decided to make my adversity my advantage by helping parents who were in my shoes," she explained.
"I had already witnessed how Applied Behavior Analysis therapy helped Maximilian tremendously to be successful and independent, and knew that I was blessed to have medical insurance to cover this therapy. I thought about all of the children whose families don't have medical insurance and how they would be underserved, and thought that the mission of The AHP would be a blessing for so many."
The nonprofit has been a blessing and a game changer to Ava Hawkins of Chicago. Her son Blake, 5, was diagnosed with autism when he was almost 3. Disappointed with the public schools near her, she found Blank's school and learned that her son would be receiving ABA therapy along with regular education courses free thanks to the Autism Hero Project.
"It was a lifesaver to my family," she said. "It's relieved so much stress from wondering if my son is being taken care of and receiving proper training, skills, lessons and knowledge to be successful and have a higher quality of life."
For more information about the Autism Hero Project, visit https://autismheroproject.org.