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Autism Speaks and New York Center for Autism Honor Fashion Designer Tommy Hilfiger and Raise Over 1.3 Million Dollars at A Funny Affair for Autism

Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Martha Stewart, Susie Essman, Alina Cho, Peter Alexander, Donny Deutsch are Among Those Lending Their Support to Help Raise Funds for Individuals with Autism and Their Families

NEW YORK, NY (December 6, 2011) – Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright, and New York Center for Autism (NYCA) Co-founders Laura and Harry Slatkin, honored iconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger for his commitment to increasing awareness and support of the autism community at A Funny Affair for Autism –a star-studded evening of fashion and comedy that helped raise over 1.3 million dollars for individuals with autism and their families.

Hilfiger’s wife, Dee, served as the honorary chair of the event, which benefitted the work of Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, and NYCA, a regional non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals and families living with autism spectrum disorders. All proceeds raised during the evening will go towards Autism Speaks’ research into the causes, prevention, and treatments for autism; as well as to help fund the NYCA. The proceeds will also support both organizations’ efforts to draw attention to the startling one in 110 odds of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

A Funny Affair for Autism, hosted by NBC Nightly News Correspondent Peter Alexander, kicked off with a cocktail reception followed by a sit down dinner. Guests were treated to a comedic performance by “Saturday Night Live” stars Seth Meyers and Bill Hader, a special musical performance by the NYCA Charter School, and an auction of celebrity designed Christmas trees and menorahs. This unprecedented event took place at The Plaza Hotel on Monday, December 5, and drew over 400 guests, including Lydia Fenet of Christie’s; fashion designer Naeem Khan and his wife Ranjana; writer and comic Robert Smigel and his wife Michelle; John Demsey, Group President Estee Lauder Companies; David Remnick of the New Yorker; and Jim Gold, President of Neiman Marcus.

“This truly was an unforgettable evening and we are incredibly grateful to all the individuals who lent their talent and support to the event,” said Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks. “A special thank you, again, to Tommy and his wife Dee for their tremendous support of autism advocacy and for helping Autism Speaks and the New York Center for Autism elevate autism awareness to new levels.”

"We were delighted to honor our dear friends Tommy and Dee,” said Laura and Harry Slatkin, founders of New York Center for Autism. “Their dedication and support of our work to elevate autism awareness speaks of their tremendous kindness and sincerity.  They made the evening remarkable and memorable.”

Hilfiger has a longstanding relationship with Autism Speaks as an advocate. Along with his wife, Dee, he co-hosted the Third Annual World Focus on Autism, which brought together first spouses from around the world to discuss solutions to combat the global crisis of autism. In addition, Hilfiger donated his time to appear in Autism Speaks’ new Ad Council public service announcement to help raise awareness about the one in 110 odds of being diagnosed with autism and encourage the public to learn its early warning signs.

“Tonight means much more to me than just an award. It is about honoring the children and families who suffer with the trauma and frustrations that autism brings,” said Tommy Hilfiger.

During A Funny Affair for Autism, celebrity designed and decorated one-of-a-kind Hanukkah menorahs and unique Christmas trees, courtesy of QVC and Bethlehem Lights, were auctioned off. The menorahs and trees raised nearly $65,000 and featured:  

  • The Star PowerTree, created by Martha Stewart and her team of crafters, which featured a constellation of handmade shooting stars, sparkling satellites, starbursts and meteors
  • The Late Night Christmas Tree, created by Jimmy Fallonand the staff of Late Night, featured audio attachments of memorable moments from Jimmy Fallon and Late Night band “The Roots”, as well as one-of-a-kind miniature versions of signature items from the show’s games and sketches
  • The Hanukkah Song Menorah created by Adam Sandler, featured the faces of famous individuals highlighted in  his popular "Hanukkah Song”
  • The All-American ChristmasTree, created by Tommy Hilfiger,featured red, white and blue color blocking, vintage glass ornaments, and a black high gloss Chippendale planter. It was inspired by the custom flag showcased in the Tommy Hilfiger Fifth Avenue store 
  • The Peacock Chic Menorah, designed by Jonathan Adler, featured turquoise and gold metal and porcelain for a thoroughly modern holiday look
  • The Magic Carousel Tree, created by Tiffany & Co., featured a variety of colors, twinkling lights and whimsical animal shapes to replicate the design of a carousel
  • The Flower Power Menorah, created by Isaac Mizrahi, featured hot pink hues and iridescent flowers
  • Cherished Chocolate Christmas Tree,created bythe artisans at Godiva, included specialty chocolates ornaments that adorned the tree

About Autism
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 110 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism.  Since its inception, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative 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 has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ 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, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $300 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, 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 in 29 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 10 states. 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 NYCA
The New York Center for Autism (NYCA) is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals and families who are living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  NYCA’s purpose is to address the serious gaps in New York in the areas of education, training, clinical services, support and research and to serve as a catalyst for building capacity around ASD in the public, private and governmental sectors.  We work to identify the need within the ASD community, develop partnerships with community based organizations, provide technical expertise, identify national leaders to shape innovative programs and provide seed money to launch these initiatives. NYCA is responsible for the creation of the NYCA CharterSchool, Hunter College Autism Center, BOOST! after school programs and our latest initiative, the Institute for Brain Development, a collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and its affiliated medical school of Columbia and Weill Cornell. The Institute is scheduled to open in 2013.  www.nyc4a.org