Daniel Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D. was presented with the 2008 Scientific Science Award in Basic Science. Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Genetics, Dr. Geschwind directs the Neurogenetics Program at UCLA. He has been a champion of autism research since 1995.He is a founding member and Chief Scientific Advisor for AGRE and helped establish the standards for the federal policies on collaboration and data sharing as part of the NIH Genetics Initiative. Dr. Geschwind is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Autism Speaks and co-director of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART).
Ricki Robinson, M.D., M.P.H. received the 2008 Scientific Service Award for Clinical Care. Dr. Robinson is an internationally recognized physician and leader in the field of autism. She is the co-director of the Descano Medical Center for Development and Learning in La Canada, Calif., a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at USC's School of Medicine, and a Senior Attending Physician at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. For over thirty years, Dr. Robinson has been in private pediatric practice, specializing in the evaluation and treatment of children with autism since 1991.
As a founding member of Cure Autism Now (CAN), Dr. Robinson has been a central figure in the autism community for nearly two decades. Most importantly, for eighteen years “Doctor Ricki” has brought science and hope to families affected by this life-altering disorder. Her technical understanding of autism, combined with her compassion, has allowed her to provide support and guidance for families and thoughtful direction for the scientists, practitioners and administrators who are advancing our knowledge of this epidemic.
Mark Roithmayr presented the first-ever President's Award, given in recognition of outstanding service to the organization, to Artie Kempner of FOX Sports. Roithmayr cited Kempner's incredible contributions to Autism Speaks which included NASCAR's Autism Speaks 400, FOX Sports on-air personalities wearing the pin and talking about autism during the Thanksgiving Day football broadcasts and much more. “This organization is what Marci and I have been waiting for,” said Kempner. “Our kids are remarkable. Suzanne and Bob understand what we're going through because they're going through it too.” In addressing the crowd he finished by saying, “You have raised more than money and awareness – you've raised the consciousness of the country.”
Bob and Suzanne Wright were unable to attend the awards dinner due to the weather, so staff members presented the Founders' Award. This year, two outstanding volunteers received this award. Dina Schwab, New Jersey Regional Director, presented the first award to Christine Bakter. Bakter is a strong community advocate for autism, partnering with government relations and volunteering as the chapter advocacy chair. In addition, her Central New Jersey Walk raised over $900,000 and doubled in attendance in only three years. “The Annual Leadership Conference is always an inspiring event for me and I am still amazed at how large we have grown, so quickly,” said Bakter. “Working with other like-minded parents to make a difference for my sons is what first drew me to our local Walk Committee six years ago, and being around parents with the same goals was very therapeutic.”
The second Founders' Award was presented by Philip Hain, Executive Director of the LA Chapter, to Priscilla Picard of Los Angeles. Picard grew her walk from 1200 attendees to over 12,000 in five years, raising a cumulative $5.5 million. “I was honored and humbled to receive this award, especially since there are so many talented people I work with who inspire me,” said Picard. “I'm energized when I see the other families, it's why I do what I do. There's such an urgent need for the future and this is a way I can make a difference for my child.”