Autism Speaks Benefit - 2008 Auto Show First Look for Charity Event


On the evening of Feb. 7th, 2008, McCormick Place was alive with gourmet food and beverages flowing, as elegantly dressed crowds attended the annual “First Look for Charity Event” that benefited 18 charities in the Chicago area.  This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Auto Show, the longest running auto show in the Nation.  This special evening allowed those in attendance to not only view the newest automobiles in comfort and elegance but to also donate to their participating charity of choice.  

Teri,Kim and Yolanda

“Autism Speaks” has been a benefactor of the annual Chicago Auto Show “First Look” for the past 7 years. As an advocacy group for those affected by autism, “Autism Speaks” is dedicated to increasing awareness of “autism spectrum disorders”.  It helps fund research exploring the causes, prevention, treatments and possible cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families.  “Autism Speaks” sponsors many activities such as annual walks and celebrity galas in the Chicago area and nationwide.   Prior to the opening of the auto show, General Motors hosted a private pre-event reception for those who had purchased tickets. This reception provided an opportunity to meet many of the individuals directly involved in efforts to help families and individuals affected by autism.

Mark, Karen and Mary

One family that has been involved in both autism and automobiles is Kim and Randy Wolf of Dan Wolf Automotive in Naperville, Illinois.  Jack, their 10-year-old son, was diagnosed with autism at 19 months of age.  At that time, 8 1⁄2 years ago, the incidence of autism was believed to be 1 child in 10,000.  Currently the incidence is 1 child in 150. “You do the math.  We need to help this next generation, both children and parents, face the challenge of autism”, says Kim.  She has been coordinating and linking ”Autism Speaks” to the Auto Show’s “First Look for Charity Event.”    

Peter Bell speaking

Peter Bell, Executive Vice-President for Autism Speaks, is responsible for programs and services nationwide.  Currently, living in New Jersey, his 15-year-old son Tyler, will be graduating from the 8th grade and making the big jump to high school.  Peter says he is anxious about the transition for his son, a feeling he thinks is common to all parents of children with autism.  Peter left his job as a marketing executive with Johnson & Johnson to become the CEO-President of CAN (Cure Autism Now) in Los Angeles. In his remarks at “First Look”, Peter established the goal of raising 100 million dollars annually for Autism Speaks.  This writer believes he will and also believes his son Tyler will do just fine transitioning to high school!

Cindy and Beau Elzinga

Many parents, including activists, Beau & Cindy Elzinga, and Mary Kurczak were also in attendance.   Family, relatives and friends present such as Mark Kestler, Karen Kucera, Suzanne Hart, Alison Jurinek bring to light the surprising revelation of the number of people who are impacted by autism in some way.

Sharon and Joey Rosenbloom

Although the reception was crowded, one very special young man stood out.  His name is Joey.  This young man with autism is 20 years old and was standing with his mother Sharon Rosenbloom and high school teacher, Rachel Christen.  He was busy typing on a sophisticated portable keyboard he uses to communicate.  Ms. Christen told me Joey was going to graduate and attend college.  Although he seemed uncomfortable when I asked him what he wanted to study in college, he carefully began typing his answer on the keyboard.  When finished his mother showed me what he had typed.  “I’m going to college to get a degree in neuroscience”.  Good for you Joey!

For more information on Autism and future events go to:

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