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Raising Money For Autism Through Rock 'N' Roll! 

Monday, March 3, 2014 View Comments

This guest post is from Paul Schmutzler, who helps fundraise for Georgia Walk Now for Autism Speaks. Want to get involved with the walks? See if there is a walk in your area coming up at!

I am like many people in the world. I lived my life having no idea what autism was and I didn’t know anyone with autism until by chance I sat next to a guy on an airplane one day and we struck up a conversation which developed into a great friendship. Some people don’t like to talk on planes with strangers but I’m not one of those guys. The stranger I met on a plane was Phil Ehart, founder, drummer, and manager for the progressive rock band, Kansas!

Phil and I have become great friends and other than his really cool job he is just a normal guy with a family like many people going through life. Due to our friendship Phil told me about his son Noah and the fact that he has autism. Phil has always been a generous friend and has told me whenever I want to see the band, just let him know and he would make sure that tickets would be waiting for me. I mentioned once that I wanted to know how much the tickets for a concert would cost and Phil sort of laughed and said, “Paul, don’t worry it, I know someone in the band!”

I always wanted to do something to pay back the band for all the free concerts they have given me over the years and knew that he wouldn’t take money so I decided that since I have gotten to know all the guys in the band and the crew I could use my friendship with them to make something and sell it to Kansas fans and give the money to charity and naturally since Autism Speaks is the band charity of choice that is where the money would go. I have watched the crew set up for a concert and watch drum heads being replaced, strings on guitars being replace and knew what I wanted to do.

I created a large shadow box with strings from all the guitars and the violin, drum sticks from Phil, and a center piece of a concert-used snare drum head signed by the band. Steve Walsh signed a hat he wore to be included since he wasn’t willing to give up keys off of his keyboard. I got it all professionally framed and put it out for auction and my first attempt at fundraising ended up as a check for $1000 going to Autism Speaks and I was hooked!

The next year I decided to go a different route and bought a violin and had everyone sign it. That second auction raised $1500! Now I knew I needed to keep going because while it is a lot of work, it really is fun to raise money and give it to such a worthy organization. On a whim I asked Phil how often he changes the decorative bass drum heads on his kit. He said they are changed every three or four years and he had just changed them.

I told him that I’d love to get them to auction them off for Autism Speaks and he was all for it. I picked them up and then they were signed by the band. I had them framed and now here we are again getting ready to kick off Autism Awareness Month with another auction. These bass drum heads were used from 2009 until 2012 and they are the ones used in the DVD, There’s No Place Like Home recorded live with the Washburn Symphony Orchestra in Topeka, Kansas! They are beautiful pieces of art and a great addition for the avid Kansas fan, the music memorabilia collector or just someone who wants a piece of Rock and Roll history. I’ve gotten so excited about this that I already have plans for the next two years auctions.

Want to get involved with Walk Now for Autism Speaks? See if there is a walk in your area coming up at!



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The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.