Raising money for autism in Humboldt County

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

The 4th annual Families Advocating Autism Now fundraiser held recently at Rosina Vineyards in Redcrest was the groups' most successful event so far. Including a generous donation from Safeway, the annual gathering raised approximately $25,000, with proceeds supporting education and other autism-related activities.

FAAN spokesperson Emily Lewis said approximately 160 people attended the fundraiser, watching as four teachers received $1,000 in grant money and two iPads. Rio Dell Kindergarten teacher Dana Barrote and Scotia Resource Teacher Laurel Stokes each received an iPad for use in their classrooms. Humboldt County Office of Education Curriculum Specialist Genevive Macias received a $750 grant and South Fortuna Elementary Resource Teacher Angela Johnson received a $250 grant from FAAN.

"The local businesses were very generous, as always," Lewis said, "and we had three times as many auction items this year." She and her group expressed appreciation to KIEM News Channel 3 for publicity and to Rex Bohn for donating his time again this year as auctioneer and oyster cooker, as well as to all who attended and supported the group's efforts.

The wine for tasting was donated by Rosina Vineyards and from Fruitland Ridge winery Elk Prairie Vineyards. At the gathering, FAAN announced a new program providing scholarships for swimming lessons for children with autism. The Hannah Ross Memorial Scholarships are in memory of the 7-year-old girl who passed away in April of this year after she wandered away from her home in Georgia and drowned nearby. "She had autism and went to school with some of our children," Lewis said. "It was a very sad story." Families can apply for the swimming lesson scholarships for any child on the autism spectrum who lives in Humboldt County on the FAAN website (www.faanclub.org).

Another recent activity sponsored by FAAN offered autistic children and their families a very special opportunity. On July 21, hundreds of children with autism and their mothers, fathers, and siblings were able to go to the movies.

"Our non-profit group bought out the local theater (Broadway Cinema in Eureka) and held a sensory-screening of 'Ice Age 4,' " said FAAN Vice President Fatima Naylor. "The lights were dim but remained on, the volume was lowered, the movie started promptly at 9 a.m. with no previews, and families with special dietary needs were allowed to bring snacks from home," Naylor said. "Best of all, when the children yelled or even skipped around the theater, no one complained."

She emphasized that the event was life-changing for some of families. "The families felt relaxed and hopeful," she said, "and they were able to share a special time with their entire family and not feel scrutinized by other people."

FAAN plans to continue offering grants to local educators and putting on autism-friendly events in the community, and next year at this same time, the 5th annual fundraiser at Rosina Vineyards.

Photo Captions:

Photos by Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

1. Local teachers receiving grant money and IPads from FAAN are (from left): Genevive Macias, Humboldt County Office of Education curriculum specialist; Dana Barrote, Rio Dell Kindergarten teacher; Angela Johnson, South Fortuna Elementary resource teacher; and Laurel Stokers, Scotia resource teacher.

2. FAAN founding members receiving a $2,500 donation from Safeway are (from left) Kristin Biernacki, Fatima Naylor, Shayla Verbich, Christina Cervantes, Misty Dewberry, Stephanie Tosten, Jessica Felse, and Emily Lewis.

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