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Autism Speaks Announces National Philanthropic Partnership with Theta Delta Chi Fraternity

NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 14, 2011) – Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that it has been selected as the national official philanthropy of Theta Delta Chi, one of the nation’s oldest college fraternities. The partnership between Autism Speaks and Theta Delta Chi will engage the thirty-three Theta Delta Chi chapters on college campuses nationwide in autism awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts as part of Autism Speaks’ college program, Autism Speaks U.

In 2008, Autism Speaks launched Autism Speaks U, an initiative that engages college students in autism awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts. Since its inception, Autism Speaks U events have raised over $1 million. There are more than 45 Autism Speaks U chapters on campuses nationwide.

“We’re honored that Theta Delta Chi and its affiliate chapters will be joining us in the effort to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders,” said  Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks. “Over the past few years, university and college students have stepped up in increasing numbers to raise awareness and funds for Autism Speaks, and we’re thrilled to keep that momentum going with Theta Delta Chi.”

“With the number of those affected by autism disorders in the United States growing at a staggering rate, we had no question in selecting Autism Speaks as our national official philanthropy,” said Mike Houlihan, Theta Delta Chi director of charge operations. “We look forward to putting our chapters to work in helping Autism Speaks solve the autism puzzle.”

Theta Delta Chi is the second collegiate society to partner with Autism Speaks through its Autism Speaks U program. In 2009, Alpha Xi Delta sorority selected Autism Speaks as its national philanthropy partner. Since the partnership was established, Alpha Xi Delta’s 120 collegiate chapters have raised over $625,000 for Autism Speaks.

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. Since its inception in 2005, 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 the 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 and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, EMI Group Global Ltd., and AMC Networks Inc., and is a Trustee of the New York Presbyterian hospital.  Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, 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 Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy.  They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award.  In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School.