NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 2, 2014) – Today, Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, is celebrating its fifth annual international Light It Up Blue Autism Awareness Day campaign. Thousands of iconic landmarks, communities, businesses and homes across the globe will unite by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families around the world living with autism.
This year, Light It Up Blue has special significance following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) release last week of updated autism prevalence data in the U.S. This surveillance study identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having an autism spectrum disorder. It is also estimated that 70 million people are affected by autism worldwide, making it an urgent public health priority that requires increasing global awareness, services and research.
“In our fifth year, the world is coming together in one strong voice through Light It Up Blue,” said Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks. “As prevalence continues to rise, we are now calling on the international community to turn awareness into action by supporting comprehensive strategies that address the needs of those with autism. Only through collaboration, can we make significant progress for our families, not just in the United States, but around the globe.”
Light It Up Blue begins annually on the evening of the UN-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), and marks the official start of Autism Awareness Month in April. Last year, more than 8,400 buildings participated in the campaign. Even more participants are expected to join the global effort to shine a light on autism during this year’s campaign. Participating landmarks include the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York, Niagara Falls in Canada, Shanghai World Financial Center in China, the Bell Tower in Australia, the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI Station and even the International Space Station.
In addition, at a special lighting ceremony held today at the Empire State Building to kickoff Light It Up Blue, Autism Speaks and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, announced the development of a new community engagement initiative to help reduce the stigma surrounding children with autism. To kick off this initiative, Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby joined Suzanne and Bob Wright, to light the Empire State Building blue. Following the lighting ceremony, Autism Speaks rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. 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 those affected by autism.
For ideas to get involved in Light It Up Blue visit www.autismspeaks.org/liub. The website provides a number of fun and creative ways to Light It Up Blue, including hosting blue-themed gatherings, wearing the Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin, purchasing blue Philips light bulbs sold exclusively at The Home Depot, and turning whole neighborhoods blue. The site also accepts donations to fund Autism Speaks’ awareness and research efforts. A list of participating landmarks is also available on the Light It Up Blue website.
Philanthropic Partners Offer Support
Throughout Autism Awareness Month in April, Autism Speaks’ corporate sponsors will offer essential awareness and fundraising support. Partners offering their support this Autism Awareness Month include:
- Major League Baseball: MLB is partnering with Autism Speaks throughout Autism Awareness Month. All 30 MLB Clubs will raise awareness for the disorder during one home game in April, or on another date during the regular season.
- NBA: for the fifth consecutive year, the league and its teams will raise fan awareness about autism through a variety of activities at arenas and games. In addition, Nets star Deron Williams is teaming up with Autism Speaks in an effort to raise awareness.
- AMC Networks: 35 networks to air a special LIUB PSA, including the four national AMC Networks channels, its IFC Films distribution label and the IFC Center Theater. In addition, most channels will turn their on-air logo bugs blue for the day, host LIUB banners and a digital version of the PSA on their websites, and promote World Autism Awareness Day on their social media properties. Networks include: AMC, American Heroes Channel, Animal Planet, BIO, Bravo, CI, Comedy Central, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery, Discovery Fit & Health, Food Network, Fuse, FX, FX Movie Channel, H2, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime Movie Network, Lifetime Real Women, Military History, MSG, MSG+, OWN, Oxygen, Palladia, Science Channel, Spike, SundanceTV, TLC, TV Land, Velocity, VH1, VH1 Classic and WE tv.
- TJ Maxx: All TJ Maxx stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico will celebrate the tenth year of supporting autism research and awareness by asking for at-register donations between April 14 and May 4, benefitting Autism Speaks.
- Dollar General: All Dollar General stores will run an in-store $1, $5 and $10 donation campaign between April 1 and April 30 as well as employee contests for the best store results.
- Joe’s Crab Shack: Between April 1 and April 30, $1, $5 and $10 bounce back coupons will be given out to customers who give a donation to Autism Speaks. Also, 10 percent of proceeds from the sale of its Autism Speaks themed t-shirt sold in restaurants will be donated to Autism Speaks.
- White Castle: All White Castles will run an in-store $1, $3, and $5 donation campaign March 30 -May 5, along with employee contests for the best store results.
- Toys“R”Us: As part of its ongoing support of the special needs community and to commemorate Autism Awareness Month, the Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund has provided a $600,000 grant to Autism Speaks. The company is also serving as sponsor of the Autism Speaks’ year-long, North American Walk program.
- The Home Depot: $1 per blue Philips light bulbs sold between March 7 and April 30 will benefit Autism Speaks.
- Lindt Chocolates: One hundred percent of proceeds from the celebrity-signed Lindt GOLD BUNNY figures will benefit Autism Speaks through April 14. In addition, 10 cents of every Lindt GOLD BUNNY purchased in the U.S. between February 15 and April 20 will be donated back to Autism Speaks. Lindt will additionally host an Easter basket building game via their Facebook page with varying levels of donations awarded to Autism Speaks. In April, select Lindt Chocolate Shops will host Autism Speaks Benefit Shopping Nights.
- NEST Fragrances: 100 percent of proceeds from purchases of NEST’s Blue Garden Candle will be donated to Autism Speaks during the month of April. Those who use promo code BLUEGARDEN when purchasing a Blue Garden candle on nestfragrances.com will receive free shipping.
- Village Supermarkets: Select Shop-Rites throughout New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania will ask customers to support Autism Speaks in-store with special discounts on blue-themed products and at-register donations between March 24 and April 13.
- Coinstar: Autism Speaks will be featured on 11,000 kiosks between April 1 and April 30.
- Modell’s Sporting Goods: Modell’s stores will run an in-store dollar donation campaign benefiting Autism Speaks between April 1 and April 30. The chain will also engage local sports teams in support of Autism Speaks and Autism Awareness Month.
- Snip-Its: A chain of children’s hair salons with 65 locations across 26 states will light each of their salons blue and encourage customers to donate at the register between April 1 and April 30.
- Cellairis: All net online proceeds on April 7 will be donated to Autism Speaks. As many as 90 Cellairis stores across the Southeast will be running “round-up” campaigns at check-out.
- Sprouts Markets: All Sprouts markets will run an in store $1, $5, $10, and $20 campaign April 23 -May 7.
- Small Planets Foods: 10 percent of sales of multiple Small Planet Foods products between April 1 and May 14 will be donated to Autism Speaks.
- Zales: Zales has created three new beads to go along with three existing beads where $10 of every sale on line and in store will be donated to Autism Speaks.
- Elizabeth Arden – Red Door Salons: On Tuesday, April 8, all Red Door Salons will donate 10 percent of total service and retail purchases when customers mention Autism Speaks at check-out. In addition, their Union Square location in New York City will be running the same promotion from April 7 - April 11.
- Poochie & Co.: The brand behind the popular puppy purses, will donate 20 percent of its online sales to Autism Speaks, from April 15 to April 30, in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
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 communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum.
World Autism Awareness Day
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), celebrated on April 2 annually, was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis. WAAD activities increase and develop world knowledge of the autism crisis and impart information regarding the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. Additionally, WAAD celebrates the unique talents and skills of persons with autism and is a day when individuals with autism are warmly welcomed and embraced in community events around the globe. Autism is one of only three health issues to be recognized by the United Nations with its own day.
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 nearly $200 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit AutismSpeaks.org