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Autism Cares Foundation hosts Gatsby themed gala

The Autism Cares Foundation recently celebrated the madcap Roaring ’20s while raising awareness and funds to secure the best possible future for its loved ones with autism and other special needs.

More than 250 guests attended Autism Cares Foundation (ACF) CARES Gala; an elegant Gatsby-themed dinner-dance, live and silent auctions, that were capped off with heart-felt presentations. The event was held at Spring Mill Manor on April 27 in Ivyland.

The event, to raise money for future programs, fundraisers and life enrichment opportunities, was attended by community and business leaders, dignitaries and families affected by autism and other special needs. The nonprofit Autism Cares Foundation was created by Linda and Frank Kuepper.

“When Linda and I decided to create Autism Cares Foundation there was a choice to be made that became a defining moment for our entire family,” Frank Kuepper, explained. “We could have chosen to do nothing, pinning our hopes and dreams on someone else to deliver these life-enriching activities for this special group of people.”

All along, the mission has always been to provide these activities, but not to be just another agency, Kuepper said, “but to be one of the best, which is something we strive for every single day.”

“It takes a village to raise a child, but what does it take to raise a special needs child – a litany of therapy, medical care, and educational support? On behalf of ACF,” he added, “we want to thank you for choosing to support our organization.”

The 2019 gala was made possible through the support of sponsors: Sapphire Sponsor: Adelphi Research, LLC; Aquamarine Sponsors: BrightView, Kreischer Miller, and KRG Enterprises, LLC; Gold Sponsors: Mikel and Lauren Eisenberg and GasTec; Silver Sponsors: Rick and Flo Celender, First Children Services, Marks Jewelers, McKeon Trucking, RTM Electrical Contractors, Inc., and Schlesinger Associates; Gift-in-kind Sponsors: NEXT Generation Productions, Inc. and IMS Technology Services.

Master of Ceremonies, Jim Donovan, of CBS-3, acknowledged that “Frank and Linda have put their blood, sweat and tears into ACF, which is so important for this community.”

A teary-eyed Donovan said he was moved after hearing about their son, Michael, now 21, who was left out of birthday parties and other social events.

“For years people with autism lived in the shadows, and didn’t go to the places that we all do because they might get a look, and feel uncomfortable,” Donovan said. “It is all about people connecting with their community in public, and that is why this is so critical.”

During the past year, ACF set a new attendance record with more than 5,000 people participating in nearly 200 annual events. As the foundation has grown, so has the base of people needing support.

Ongoing events include: physical fitness classes, sensory friendly movies, music, arts & crafts, bowling, swimming, holiday parties, GLEE Club, and numerous other events, just like their typical peers.

All of this is made possible through the generosity of sponsors and donors, who support the costs associated with each of these activities.

Additionally, events are coordinated by a small number of staff members, which is why having the hundreds of dedicated volunteers is so critical to the foundation’s mission.

Linda Kuepper spoke about the ACF Prom, which will take place on Friday, May 17. “Most of our special needs friends never get to experience going to their high school prom,” she said.

“This year will be the ninth year that we have created a prom for them that is like no other,” she said, “with all the trimmings of a typical prom – dressy clothes, lovely hairstyles, corsages, dancing to the music of a DJ and a keepsake photo. It is certain to be a memorable event.”

The 11th annual CARES Gala was also an opportunity to thank many ACF supporters. Ronald T. Bernstein, the Executive Director of Foundation’s Community Partnership, (FCP), was the recipient of the 2019 CARES Award.

Also recognized at the ACF Cares Gala were 2019 Community Partner honorees Schi Berk of Bloomin’ Brands and Paul Rokuskie of NEXT Generation Productions, Inc.

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