NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 3, 2012) – On April 2, Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, celebrated the United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day with a series of high profile awareness events and the launch of its third annual Light It Up Blue (LIUB) campaign, a global initiative to raise funds and increase awareness of autism as a growing public health crisis now affecting1 in 88 individuals, and 1 in 54 boys in the United States.
For the fifth consecutive year, Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright rang The Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange to officially kick off the celebration of World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month. They were joined by Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext, and fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger and his wife Dee. Executives from other world autism organizations also rang either the opening or closing bell at NYSE Euronext markets in Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon and Paris in recognition and support of all those affected by autism.
On the evening of April 2, nearly 3000 structures in over 600 cities and 45 countries illuminated in blue and joined Autism Speaks to shine a bright light on autism. To launch this global awareness effort, the Wrights were joined by the Hilfigers and the Kenyon family, a military family affected by autism, at the Empire State Building and “flipped the switch” to light the world famous icon’s tower lights blue. Other participating landmarks around the world include the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, the Wrigley Building in Chicago, Aspen Mountain in Colorado, Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tokyo Tower in Japan, Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia – as well as airports, bridges, museums, concert halls, schools/universities, restaurants, and retail stores around the world.
The public can actively participate in LIUB by visiting LightItUpBlue.org. The website provides a number of fun and creative ideas, from downloading the Light It Up Blue iOS or Android App -- allowing users to turn their own pictures blue -- to hosting autism-themed gatherings, wearing the Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin, and purchasing specially marked blue light bulbs and LED lanterns, sold exclusively at The Home Depot, to turn whole neighborhoods blue. The site also accepts donations to fund Autism Speaks’ awareness and research efforts.
On March 31, Autism Speaks hosted the Autism Speaks Salutes Military Families event at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, as part of its ongoing military initiative to advocate for the passage of the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act (CMKAA), federal legislation that would assure access to autism benefits for active duty and retired personnel alike, including “Wounded Warriors” who currently lose services for their children with autism once they retire. Congressman John Larson (D-CT), Deputy Assistant to President Obama Michael Strautmanis, retired NASA astronaut Jeffrey Alan Hoffman, event emcee ABC News Correspondent Bob Woodruff, and Susan Marenoff-Zausner, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, joined the Wrights, and many military families and individuals with autism for a fun-filled day featuring activities for kids and a resource fair. The event also featured the debut of a video greeting from Astronaut Dan Burbank aboard the International Space Station. This special salute from NASA sheds light on autism as a growing global health crisis, and emphasizes the need for international cooperation to make widespread change and progressin meeting the needs of individuals with autism.
“We are grateful to these landmark buildings for illuminating blue on World Autism Awareness Day to help spread awareness to millions of people around the world as we light the skies like a beacon of hope for all those affected,” says Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks. “As autism prevalence continues to rise, it is critical we continue to work together, nationally and internationally, to help make widespread change and progressin meeting the needs of individuals with autism.”
On December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly, by unanimous consent, passed the resolution designating April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day in perpetuity starting in 2008. The Resolution encouraged UN Member States to take measures to raise awareness about autism throughout society, to promote early diagnosis and early behavioral intervention and acknowledges the high rate of autism in all regions of the world and the consequent development challenges to long term health care, education, training and intervention programs. The UN continues to support World Autism Awareness Day and will hold an awareness event on April 3 jointly sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh, the United States Mission to the UN, the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar, and Autism Speaks. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser – President of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly – and Ambassador Susan Rice will speak at the event, among others. The event will also include a panel discussion featuring six-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and parent advocate Toni Braxton and moderated by Christiane Amanpour, award-winning anchor for ABC and CNN.
A list of buildings around the world participating in Light It Up Blue is available here:
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 1000 percent increase in the past 40 years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It 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. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed over $173 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 95 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.