(May 5, 2014) - The Boston Red Sox hosted nearly 1,300 individuals, families and supporters of New England’s autism community on Autism Awareness Day at Fenway Park in Boston on Saturday as part of Major League Baseball’s partnership with Autism Speaks. The Red Sox beat the Oakland A’s, 6-3, on a clear spring day that began with the team’s special guests—kids, adults and families affected by autism—taking part in the pre-game ceremonies, including throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, performing honorary bat boy duties and announcing “Play Ball!” at the start of the game.
The highlight of the day was 12-year-old Zack Zorn delivering the day’s ceremonial first pitch. Zack and the entire Zorn family were special guests of Autism Speaks and the Red Sox as they honored the legacy of Zack’s grandmother, Elaine, who passed away unexpectedly last month on April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day. Elaine was a passionate and relentless advocate and volunteer for those on the autism spectrum, especially her grandson Zack, who inspired her invaluable efforts with Autism Speaks. Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy was on-hand to catch Zack’s throw as the team’s ambassador for Autism Speaks.
Marissa Kearney, an 8th grader whose older brother Ryan has autism, delivered a chills-inducing rendition of the national anthem, as she represented all of the siblings of those on the spectrum—brothers and sisters who make sacrifices and teach others about acceptance and compassion.
“For families affected by autism, it can be very hard to come out to a ballgame,” said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks who was at Fenway for the special day. “There’s a lot of noise, the crowds might not be that easy to deal with. Here at Fenway, we have quiet zones for kids who might need to have a little bit of a timeout, we have discounted tickets—really, just a feeling of welcoming for families who don’t usually get the chance to spend the day at a game.”
The Red Sox also recognized Ray Blanchette, president & CEO of Ignite Restaurants, for his group’s fundraising efforts for Autism Speaks at their Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants during the month of April, which totaled $2 million.
Check out Liz Feld’s full interview with NESN’s Adam Pellerin before the game below and see more photos and highlights here.