NEW YORK (October 19, 2010) – Autism Speaks, North America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, recently re-launched the website for its Autism Speaks U initiative (www.autismspeaks.org/u), which engages college students across the country in autism awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts. The new site features greater personalization and a wide range of tools to empower students to establish Autism Speaks U chapters, organize events, and encourage their peers to get involved.
The new Autism Speaks U site personalizes the way Autism Speaks is able to engage and interact with college volunteers. Each college student who registers on the site gets a customized set of fundraising tools and a profile similar to that on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the site provides several tools to help students learn how to run successful events. Students on the site are able to create team-based fundraisers, ticketed events and awareness events. The new site offers a number of fundraising tools, including sample event ideas, e-mail templates and tips for fundraising and hosting events. There are also guides on how to start an Autism Speaks U chapter and for securing event sponsorships.
“College students are the future of this organization,” said Marc Sirkin, chief community officer for Autism Speaks. “We’re honored to be working with such talented and bright individuals who are so passionate about supporting the autism community. We hope to unite college communities across the nation into a single, powerful voice for the autism community.”
Launched in 2008, Autism Speaks U is an innovative and collaborative program for college students who want to raise funds and awareness for Autism Speaks, while supporting their local autism communities. Student-organized events take place both on and off campus and range from hosting a 5K run to organizing a benefit concert, to organizing a panel discussion about autism. While many of the students involved with Autism Speaks U have a personal connection to autism, others not directly affected have also joined the program to support the cause.
Since its inaugural event at Penn State University in 2006, Autism Speaks U events have raised close to $800,000 and student-organized Walk Now for Autism Speaks teams have brought in millions more. “Since creating Autism Speaks U’s first event at Penn State University, we remain committed to leading college students nationwide in the fight against autism,” said Adam Dorfman and Andrew Moses, co-founders of Autism Speaks U.
Autism Speaks U events and chapters exist at colleges and universities across the country, including: Penn State University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, University of Connecticut, Duke University, California State University-Northridge, University of Maryland and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“We started an Autism Speaks U chapter this fall, and with over 150 members, we are one of the largest organizations on campus,” said Allison Drake, president and founder of the Autism Speaks U chapter at Saint Mary’s College of Indiana. “We’ve made a name for ourselves on campus and are collaborating with the University of Notre Dame as well as the local community. I can’t wait to see the foundation we will leave at Saint Mary’s once I graduate.”
“I set up a ticketed event on the Autism Speaks U website; it was incredibly easy and I raised over $500 online,” said Christopher Byrd, a student at Iowa State University. “More than 200 people attended the benefit concert and three native Iowa artists performed, including the popular folk singer William Elliott Whitmore.”
College students, faculty and alumni can get involved with Autism Speaks U by visiting www.autismspeaks.org/u.
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is North America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $142.5 million to research through 2014 and developing innovative new resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks also supports the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council which has received over $249 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Au tism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.
About Autism Speaks Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners, Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, RAND Corporation and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards such as the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s National Women’s Division and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism advocacy.