Autism awareness was in the spotlight at different venues as part of MegaFest, Bishop T.D. Jakes’ three-day faith and family festival which took place August 29-31 in Dallas, Texas.
The most foot traffic was at the Family Expo, which featured everything from jewelry and hair care products to educational materials and custom suit designs. Vendors provided plenty of options for festival-goers. Autism Speaks’ “Ask a Clinician” booth was conveniently located at the Family Expo’s Health Pavilion, giving families an opportunity to speak with expert clinicians about their child’s development and early behaviors. Volunteer clinicians from UT Southwestern and Autism Treatment Center of Texas made themselves available for families. The booth included semi-private meeting areas for confidential conversations and a play area for children with sensory-friendly toys.
Families who came by the booth were nearly in tears, thanking us for being at MegaFest. They had family members, friends, co-workers with children or adults on the spectrum and collected materials to bring back to their communities. Tisha Campbell-Martin even stopped by to help pass out information about autism as she welcomed families who opened up and shared their personal connections to autism.
Saturday afternoon’s celebrity basketball game opened up with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem sung by Konner Frazier, 10, who was diagnosed with autism at 18 months and did not speak until he was four years old. Konner’s performance awed and moved the crowd.
The festival culminated Saturday evening with the star-studded Woman of Purpose concert benefiting Autism Speaks. The concert was hosted by Steve Harvey and included performances by Jennifer Hudson, Brandy, Mary Mary, Babyface and many more.
The evening’s women of purpose were moms of children with autism and strong advocates Holly Robinson Peete, Tisha Campbell-Martin and Toni Braxton, who were recognized for their tireless efforts bringing autism awareness to their community.
Highlighting the evening, two extraordinarily deserving families affected by autism were each awarded with $20,000 on behalf of Bishop Jakes’ Ministries, to help with the much-needed therapy for their loved ones on the spectrum. Each family was overjoyed with emotion that was felt throughout the arena. Throughout the concert, Autism Speaks’ mission to help improve the lives of individuals with autism was prominent as well as the research and awareness Autism Speaks continues to do.
Autism Speaks and Bishop Jakes will continue to partner and work together to reach more families and improve more lives of those affected by autism.
[slideshow:2, order=top, width=585, height=480, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/tisha-campbell-martin.jpg|||Tisha Campbell-Martin shares autism information at the Autsm Speaks booth in the Healthcare Pavilion ||, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/bishopjakesandserita.jpg|||Bishop Jake and Serita||, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/steveharvey.jpg|||Steve Harvey onstage at the "Woman of Purpose" Concert||, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/kellerfamily2.jpg|||The Keller family\, who received an award from Bishop Jakes' Ministries ||, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/hollyspeaks.jpg|||Autism Speaks National Board Member Holly Robinson Peete addresses the crowd at the "Woman of Purpose" concert ||,img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/jhud2.jpg|||Jennifer Hudson performing at the "Woman of Purpose" concert ||, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/babyface.jpg|||Babyface on stage at the concert||,]