SAAAC Raises $200,000 to Support Newcomer and Low-Income Families Living with Autism

Posted on: March 22nd, 2016 by SAAAC No Comments

Photos Courtesy of Sequence Media

Saturday, March 12 saw the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC) host their 7th Radiant Night Autism Charity Gala at the Scarborough Convention Centre. The gala annually raises  funds to support vulnerable families that lack access to autism programming and information due to a variety of factors including language and economic barriers.

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This year, the charity raised $200,000 to fund their ADE (Assessment, Development, Empowerment) program. Supporting 40 families annually, ADE is composed of a collection of programs that help both individuals with autism and their caregivers. The program offers 240 hours of programming for individuals with autism; 42 hours of parent workshop and support group discussions for parents and caregivers, and a full year of social service support – all free of charge.

The host of dignitaries that attended the event had very personal connections to autism. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders opened the evening by stating, “This is a subject [autism] that is close to my heart because my 11 year old son is high-functioning autistic, and when you have autism in your family you learn so much more about yourself, you learn so much more about the world.”

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders address Radiant Night Gala audience

Hon. Mike Lake, MP for Edmonton-Wetaskiwin, the keynote speaker of the evening, was also another father whose personal experiences with autism touched and inspired the over 1000 people in attendance.  Mr. Lake’s presentation used video clips from interviews and news stories centered around his 21 year son, Jaden, who has autism. “The goal of sharing my and Jaden’s story is to change  the way we think about the people around us – their abilities, their challenges and the unique contributions that they can make to the great benefit of all of us,” said Mr. Lake.

Hon. Mike Lake addresses Radiant Night Gala audience - Keynote Speech

Councillor Glenn de Baermaker was also an honored guest at the event. In 2015, the councillor helped SAAAC access $27,000 in funding to improve programming and infrastructure at the centre. On this night he had a special announcement for the families and volunteers of SAAAC: “We’re trying to get the city to effectively, I’ll call it, donate space to the awareness centre, so you can have a new 10,000 square foot home, a permanent home.” said the councillor.

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker speaks to Radiant Night Gala

The special evening hosted other notable dignitaries including Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, the Hon. John McCallum; the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, Patrick Brown; Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, the Hon. Brad Duguid ; the Hon. Gary Anandasangaree;  MPP Jennifer French; and MPP Jack MacLaren. 

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“This was an incredible night,” says Executive Director Geetha Moorthy. “It’s amazing to see this many people come out to support what we are trying to do. From university students to community and political leaders, this is a unique event that brings a lot of different people together for a common cause. And helping to encourage and empower individuals and families living with autism, and giving them the tools to succeed is definitely a cause worth rallying around.”

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