Last July, Autism Speaks staffers went to Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to meet Lance Rice, a 56-year-old brewing historian with autism. For nearly 18 months, Lance journeyed 30,000 miles to research a book on American brewing history and become an autism advocate. Lance's dream was 40 years in the making; last year marked the first time he ever left home on his own. Lance's nephew Aaron Rice is a filmmaker who is helping tell the "Beer Autism Hope" story in a feature-length documentary called Lance's Brewery Tour.
Autism Speaks Staffer Kerry Magro asked Lance and Aaron what they have been up too since their tour ended.
Kerry Magro: Thanks for chatting with us today, guys! Aaron, can you tell our readers more about how Lance's Brewery Tour got started?
Aaron Rice: Years ago I made a promise to help my uncle become an author. When we first began I called a few breweries near Cleveland, Ohio to tell them about my uncle, who has an incredible talent for retaining knowledge and that his lifelong passion and focus was the history of brewing. His story spread quickly and the most influential people in American brewing began inviting Lance to breweries across the country to help him fulfill his dream.
KM: Lance, last time we saw you was at the Brooklyn Brewery almost a year ago. You were in the middle of your tour. What have been some of the highlights since we last saw you?
Lance Rice: The biggest highlight was how kind and wonderful the brewing community was to me. I never knew how really big all of this would get. Originally we were supposed to travel for one month but here we are today, over a year later, and we are still going. So many people have opened their arms to me to help me with my dream and help me tell others with autism to never give up.
KM: Aaron, can you tell us more about the social media campaign that started with #BeerAutismHope?
AR: When we began three words described my uncle and his cause: #BeerAutismHope. As Lance's journey grew major breweries, breweries like Samuel Adams, Dogfish Head, Yuengling, Sierra Nevada, Budweiser and 100's more began sharing that same message on Facebook, Twitter and beyond. April 8th, during autism awareness month, breweries, autism organizations and families nationwide joined us to celebrate #BeerAutismHope day by sharing that message. What has now become Lance's slogan for hope reached over 2.5 million people that day!
KM: Lance, I think one of the things we were inspired with about Lance's Brewery Tour is not only is it a film but also a book, a charity and a scholarship for individuals with autism. What inspired you to make all of this happen?
LR: All the people who accepted and encouraged me inspire me and my nephew and family - inspire me to help other people and children with autism. I never really spoke too much before this but now I want people to know that autism is something you should be proud of.
KM: Aaron, Now that the official tour is finished, what's up next for the Lance Brewery Tour?
AR: Lance is busy every day writing his first book and Team #BeerAutismHope is working to finish and release his film, publish the book and launch Lance's charity. This story and movement have an opportunity to touch millions. So we are doing everything we can to share Lance's story with the world as soon as possible.
Finally, Lance, can you give any words of advice to the individuals with autism out there who are aspiring to have their dreams come true like yourself?
LR: Always have hope in yourself and never ever give up. Even if it seems impossible, dreams can come true if you believe in yourself. I never thought any of this could happen for me. Just keep on believing in yourself no matter what.
You can learn more about Lance’s Brewery Tour here. You can follow their project on Facebook here and Twitter @LanceKnowsBeer. Also check out the video below to see how you can help support Lance and Aaron's project...