Coming together for Autism

By Kaylee Kean

A group of Oakland University students worked with OUCARES to hold the very first Fall Festival for Autism at the Auburn Hills Community Center.

The festival, which was held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., was arranged by communications students Jacqueline Lee, Anya Young, Stephanie Farley and Lindsay Cece as a class project.

“We decided to go above and beyond,” said Lee, the leader of the group. “We just wanted to make a difference.”

The festival was open to children between the ages of 10 and 18 who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as their friends and family.

Over 50 people attended, according to Lee.

Lee said that OUCARES has been let down in the past regarding other student activities and fundraisers – the Fall Festival ended up being a hit, however.

“A lot of the family members said they were so excited to see the kids in an environment where they were comfortable,” said Lee. “In the future it will definitely come back again.”

 

Sending a message

The goal of OUCARES is to promote awareness and understanding of ASD and the problems that come with it, according to the group’s website. 

“The festival was supposed to be a place where they could have fun and be the majority,” Lee said.

Activities included a “thankful tree,” bounce houses, free food, face painting, coloring, dance lessons, bowling and much more, according to Lee. Everyone dressed up, got involved and “had a blast.”

During the festival Lee and her volunteers also handed out ribbons and wore shirts decorated with colorful puzzle pieces, the national symbol for autism awareness.

When it comes to dealing with autism, Lee said she has one very simple piece of advice.

“I know it sounds cliché, but don’t judge a book by its cover,” Lee said. “The kids there had awesome personalities, creative mindsets – just beautiful children. Every kid is unique.”

The staff was nervous about working with the kids at first, Lee said, but soon became very comfortable and “just seemed to be having so much fun” with them.

“I think it was just very eye-opening for a lot of people,” Lee said.

 

Positive participation

In order to fund and throw the event, Lee said she and her partners had to approach a variety of businesses in the area for sponsorships.

There was a lot of good feedback.

“Pretty much everything was done through donations,” Lee said. “Everyone was very willing to donate their time, service and products.”

Melanie Williams, CEO of GURU public relations, was one of the volunteers who attended the festival. Her company helped to organize and played an “overall leadership role” in the event.

“One of our strong missions and goals is to give back to the community,” Williams said. “This was a good opportunity to do so.”

Williams, who has had experience with autism inside her family, said it is important to be patient and supportive when dealing with autism.

“It’s not the parents’ fault, it’s not the child’s fault – it just happens,” Williams said. “They’re no different from other kids, they just learn in their own unique way.”

 

Contact Staff Reporter Kaylee Kean at [email protected]