April 2012 marked the biggest World Autism Awareness Month to date and Autism Speaks was at the forefront, leading the charge with our Light it Up Blue initiative. Read on to find out all of the happenings of the month!
* It will never go without saying that the Annual World Autism Awareness Day was all made possible by our very own Suzanne Wright five years ago personally getting the United Nations to designate in perpetuity that April 2nd would be devoted to autism awareness around the globe. What also is amazing is that with each passing year the influence of WADD and our Light It Up Blue campaign grows by leaps and bounds.
* To date, over 3,000 buildings in over 600 cities in over 45 countries on every continent participated this year. Among many new structures were The Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt (officially one of our 'Wonders of the World' going blue with the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil being another), the International Space Station, Elvis' Graceland, the New Orleans Superdome, the NAV Control Tower in Vancouver, Table Mountain in South Africa-not to be outdone by Aspen Mountain in Colorado (thank you Sallie Bernard as well as Holly Robinson Peete) to name just a few.
* The actual celebration of both the Day and the Month got an early start the weekend before WAAD on March 31st with the Autism Speaks Salutes Military Families event on the deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum hosted by ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff and attended by the Wrights, Chuck and Colleen Saftler as well as White House representative Michael Strautmanis. WAAD itself officially began on April 2nd with the annual ringing of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange in the United States, joined this year by similar bell ringings in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Poland!
* Led by the Empire State Building (the Wrights 'threw the switch' along with Dee and Tommy Hilfiger) and 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, skylines went blue across the country including Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas and Mobile plus we had over 10 State Capitols turn blue including New Jersey, Florida, Alaska and Hawaii!
* Light it Up Blue Galas were also held across the country with Washington, DC's "Blue Affair" taking top prize as the largest fundraiser bringing in $325,000!
* Corporations and Retail partners went blue for the month including Dollar General, Home Depot, FedEx, Air Canada (who ran in flight PSA's all month long in English and French!), Giant Food, Shop Rite and Pitt Ohio.
* Over 240 colleges went blue from USC in LA to Case Western in Cleveland to Duke in NC.
* Media/Social Media around the day and throughout the month was ENORMOUS further fueled by the new CDC statistics and our economic cost study. Every major print, broadcast and cable outlet ran MULTIPLE stories; thanks to Andrew Robertson/BBDO and Tim Jones/Zenith our PSA's ran in every major national newspaper and we even had one of our spots run during the finals of the NCAA Basketball tournament on CBS! Speaking of basketball, the NBA promoted WAAD for over a week across all of its games on ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV (including their global broadcasts). Twenty-two cable networks turned their logos blue for the day on April 2nd everyone from AMC to the WE Networks! And we set ALL TIME trending records on Google, Face Book, Twitter, down loaded apps and unique visitors to our home page.
* This list of accomplishments is so long this year that I could never do it justice in a Month-in-Review. Please click here to get a sampling of our very successful media efforts.
* Staying in the WAAD vein, a true highlight of the month was our co-hosting the United Nations Panel discussion "Delivering Answers through Inclusive International Collaboration" together with the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh, the Untied States Mission an the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar. UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon gave remarks and unveiled special UN Postal Administration "Autism Awareness" stamps designed by individuals with autism. The event was moderated by ABC News Global Affairs Anchor Christiane Amanpour and featured presentations by US Ambassador Susan Rice, the Wrights, Geri Dawson and Autism Speaks Global Ambassador Toni Braxton. Click here to read further.
* This was also a tremendously exciting month for translational research, beginning with the science leadership's participation in the inaugural meeting of EU-AIMS (short for the European Autism Interventions Multicentre Study for Developing New Medications) and including a return trip to Switzerland for the Roche-Nature Medicine symposium on "Autism Spectrum Disorders: From Biological Understanding to Therapeutic Strategies." In a nice piece of kismet, while the science leadership was in Europe, Science Translational Medicine published the early but tremendously promising findings of an animal drug study that our own Rob Ring helped develop during his days at Pfizer (before we snatched him up to become our VP of translational research). See our news story here.
* Closer to home, the science and awareness departments co-hosted the first meeting of the Global Autism Advocacy Leadership Network, in New York City, and our LA contingent successfully launched registration for this summer's inaugural National Conference for Families and Professionals.
* Our 30th Autism Insurance bill was signed into law by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in April. And we expect Alaska to become our 31st state as its legislature passed their bill now awaiting the Governor Sean Parnell's signature! Additionally the states of Vermont, Louisiana and Kansas are all working on expansion bills to make their state mandates even stronger. We expect good news on these in the coming months.
* Our Baker Summer Camp Program awarded 42 camps in 25 states offering scholarships to children living with autism from financially disadvantaged families. Similarly we distributed 180 free iPads to financially disadvantaged families affected by autism (the iPads were made possible through a major donor-we had 13,500 applicants).
* There were multiple Family Services web chats for the month including our own Gary Mayerson leading a session on 'How Best to Advocate for your Child's Education' hosting over 125 readers, a transcript can be found here.
* The spring walk season started in full bloom this past month with 14 Walks in total. Nine of the Walks are expected to hit or exceed budget. Tops was our Los Angeles Walk which had over 30,000 people in attendance and is up some $200,000 over last year. The walk features our top team in the nation led by our Southern California Board Member Ari Greenburg and his wife Andrea whose Team Greenbean raised over $400,000!
* The BIG special event of the month was our "Lead Off For A Cure" sponsored by Major League Baseball. With a goal of $1.1 million we raised over $1,355,000! We can not thank Mel Karmazin enough for securing MLB as a sponsor and additionally contributing to the evening. Also great thanks go to Shawn Matthews who gave a fabulous acceptance speech as one of the evening's honorees (and also contributed to the event). Additionally, the Wrights, Chuck Saftler, Adrian Jones, Phil Geier, Gary Mayerson, and Tim Jones all contributed to the financial success of the event.
* Multiple corporate promotions ran during the month of April-Toys R Us, Dollar General, Home Depot, TJ Maxx-to name just a few. We will have final results for all in next month's report...