Thirty one years ago we sat in a room and heard the words "Your Child Has Autism." Back then there were few supports available . In 1997 HMEA's Autism Resource Central opened their doors and we were among the first families to register. In 1999 I joined the Center Staff. The Center has been a major source of support for not only my family but for THOUSANDS, yes, thousands of families in Central Massachusetts. In 2000 I suggested that we have a walk for Autism Awareness in Worcester to increase awarenss but also to raise funds so we could expand the Center's Mission.
It's that time again. Time for the Autism Resource Central's Annual Walk and once again I am asking for your support. I'll be walking for the cause that is near and dear to my heart. The cause which captured my life. This event which began 20 years ago with the hopes of raising $10,000, has from the very beginning always exceeded our expectations. This year as we continue to grow the challenge of being the Center of the Autism Community has never been greater.
Your support has allowed us to grow the Autism Resource Center to meet the needs of the ever increasing numbers of families facing the challenge of raising a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2000 the incidence of autism was 1 in 2,000, in 2019 1 in 38 children born will be affected. Over time the Center expanded to serve the needs of adults with autism as well, which makes it the need greater than ever and as the Director of the Center I can assure you that every dollar raised will benefit more than 3,700 families in Central Massachusetts who are registered with the Center.
What does your donation do? We provide support, information, referral, family activities & events, educational and therapeutic programs for children with autism as well as siblings, school vacation events, summer camps and community partnerships to area businesses. This year we've developed activities and supports for adults who are challenged by autism. The challenges presented to individuals affceted by autism change over time with maturity . We've added adult activities to increase social opportunities for adults, support groups for parents who are still supporting their adult children on the spectrum and workshops on housing, relationships and more. While the focus for autism has always been "children" the reality is autism is a life long disability and the supports for adults are few, it's time that changed.
I do this to honor Ed who has been an inspiration as he meets each and every day with a smile despite the significant obstacles his autism imposes on his life. I also do this for his sisters, who will finish this journey with him after I am gone. This disability impacts a whole family and multiple generations in a family. Repeat this by 3,700 families and you begin to see the magnitude of the need for more supports.
I hope that I can count on your support to help us to continue to be a resource to so many families who are challenged every day by autism to help their children reach their potential and thrive and and individuals who continue to need support to be productive citizens.