Sunday, April 6, 2008

Families Rally for Autism Support

Chase Jordan
Staff Writer Lee's Summit Tribune

Autism awareness was at the forefront this week in Lee's Summit. Autism Speaks celebrated the day at the SummitWoods Crossing shopping center on Wednesday. The Lee's Summit Autism Support Group hosted Autism Awareness Night at Beauchamp's on the Rail Restaurant on Thursday. "When we get together as a community and as a family you realize that you're not alone," said Kirsten Sneid, a volunteer for Autism Speaks and a parent of two children with autism.

On Dec.18, 2007, the United Nations declared April 2 as World Autism Day.

Karen Horn, of the Autism Alliance of Greater Kansas City, read a proclamation from Lee's Summit Mayor Karen Messerli, marking April 2 as World Autism Day here. After the proclamation was read, blue and white balloons were launched into the air. "As the balloons lift into the air, may our hopes soar with them as we reach forward together bringing better compassion and awareness to those affected by autism in the by-state area and around the world," Horn said to the audience. Amy Brockelmeyer, of EFECT, has a daughter diagnosed with autism. "It's something people can't ignore. The statistics are growing," Brockelmeyer said. "There's got to be a reason for this to be happening. A day like this will bring to light how remarkable and how important the statistics are for people who don't think about it everyday like we do." Kelly Knosby, of Lone Jack, said it was a good time for families to come together. She attended the event with her sons, Matthew and Blaine. "I think it's important to show solidarity," Knosby said. A portion of the proceeds from the Beauchamp's event was donated to the Autism Alliance of Greater Kansas City. Lee's Summit Support Group co-founders Sherri Tucker and Debra Shaumeyer invited the Autism Alliance to the event.

"It's just amazing the number of people who are still not aware of the disability of autism," said Robin Russell, Autism Alliance member. "We just need to raise awareness to the community, so the community will accept our children."

Mike Sharp, Jackson County sheriff candidate, attended the event. He said he has a nephew who is autistic. "I know the trials and tribulations that we go through as a family having to deal with him on a daily basis," Sharp said.

Lorinda Gravel, of the Autism Alliance, said her 15-year-old son, Justin, is non-verbal.
"It's hard in the beginning because you go through a grieving process just like when someone has died," Gravel said. "It's hard because you think you have a regular developing kid then all of a sudden boom...
"He's the biggest love-bug you'll ever meet," Gravel said. "I wouldn't trade him for the world."
Several special guests and celebrities attended, including former Kansas City Chiefs players Deron Cherry, Kimble Anders and Anthony Davis. The Royals Blue Crew was also there.
"Anytime you can come out and give support to a cause that means something that's important to someone, I always like to do that," said Davis, a former linebacker for the Chiefs. "This is a great cause."
Autism Alliance volunteer Cory Mickelson helped arrange Autism Awareness Night at Royals Stadium. He said there were about 100 tickets left to be sold for the event.
State Rep. Jeff Grisamore, of Lee's Summit, attended the event and said advocating for individuals with disabilities, especially children and their families, is his highest legislative priority.
"The needs for the disabled and those in the disability community should receive the first portion of government funding," Grisamore said.

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