NEW YORK (March 20, 2006) - Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism and raising money to fund autism research, today announced a series of special events – from an exclusive Dennis Miller comedy performance to the introduction of a new Build-A-Bear Workshop teddy bear and a nation-wide fundraising initiative with TJ Maxx – for National Autism Awareness Month in April. April will also mark the launch of Autism Speaks' ambitious public service advertising (PSA) campaign in conjunction with the Advertising Council.
The new three-year PSA campaign, which was created pro bono by BBDO, encourages parents to “learn the signs” and focuses on raising awareness of autism and on the importance of early intervention. The campaign launches on April 6 and will run across all media channels including print, broadcast, cable, radio and Internet.
A month of special Autism Speaks events begins with a party at the New York City flagship store of Build-A-Bear Workshop, where the siblings of children with autism will gather to design special bears for their brothers and sisters. The event kicks off a unique Autism Awareness Month collaboration. Throughout April, Build-A-Bear will sell its special edition Nikki III bear in its more than 200 stores across the U.S. and Canada, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Autism Speaks. The special purple bear will wear an Autism Speaks ribbon (the ribbon will be placed on the bears after they are purchased). Additionally, the sale of purple satin hearts ($1) will also benefit Autism Speaks during this period. Last year, Build-A-Bear's partnership with the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) resulted in a $40,000 donation. Stores will offer customers printed information about autism, and Bearemy, the Build-A-Bear Workshop mascot, will attend several Walk for Autism Research events.
On the evening of April 2, Emmy award-winning comedian Dennis Miller will headline a benefit comedy night at The Improv in Irvine, California, with all proceeds from ticket sales benefiting Autism Speaks. Tickets for this event, which will begin at 7:00 PM and will also feature performances by other top comedians, are available for $50.00 by calling (949) 854-5455 or logging on to http://www.improv.com, then clicking on “Irvine.”
Autism Speaks' volunteers will ‘take to the Hill” on April 3 with more than 75 visits to senators and representatives. These volunteers will be asking their elected officials to support the Combating Autism Act as well as appropriations from the Department of Defense for autism research.
Also in April, Autism Speaks and national off-price retailer TJ Maxx will partner on a month-long fundraising and awareness program. Beginning April 9th at 800 TJ Maxx stores nationwide, customers will be invited to purchase an Autism Speaks puzzle piece at checkout for a donation of $1. No purchase is necessary to make a donation, and all proceeds will benefit Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks and TJ Maxx will also host an online auction of celebrity-decorated and autographed wooden puzzles. Those interested in bidding can visit www.tjmaxx.com/autismspeaks from April 24 to May 3. All proceeds from the auction will also go to Autism Speaks.
More than 26 Walk for Autism Research events are scheduled for Spring 2006, including several kickoffs and walk events in April, including walks in Palmdale, CA, Abilene, TX, Phoenix, AZ, Cumberland, MD, and Broward County, FL. The first Orlando Walk for Autism Research will be held on April 29. The Walk for Autism Research is the signature fundraising event of the new Autism Speaks. Established by NAAR in 2000, Walk for Autism Research events have attracted hundreds of thousands of walkers worldwide who have raised tens of millions of dollars for autism research. Forty-three walks will be held in forty-six locations throughout the year.
A feature article in the May issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, hitting newsstands in April, will explore the challenges facing the families of children with autism. Its focus will be the story of Katie Wright, the daughter of Autism Speaks Co-Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright, and the Wrights' collective efforts to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 166 children, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of the growing autism epidemic and to raising money to fund scientists who are searching for a cure. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric and Chairman and CEO, NBC Universal. Autism Speaks and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) recently combined operations, bringing together two of the leading organizations dedicated to accelerating and funding biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism spectrum disorders; to increasing awareness of the nation's fastest growing developmental disorder; and to advocating for the needs of affected families. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.