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By Marni Walsh
The 2nd annual Hearts Wide Open for Autism mystery dinner exceeded its goal by $1500 last week, raising over $9,000 to purchase equipment for special needs students in Shelburne elementary schools.
A campaign led by the love of a grandmother for her twin grandchildren with autism, Deanna Avison of Shelburne teamed up with Megan Young of the Shelburne Golf and Country Club to launch the dinner and silent auction in 2016 with the goal of raising funds for the Upper Grand Learning Foundation.
Deanna says her co-chair, Megan Young, is her “right arm, support and friend. I couldn't do this without you.”
Guests at the April 1 event enjoyed a delicious dinner, browsed silent auction tables, and enjoyed “Murder for Hire,” an interactive performance company out of Kitchener-Waterloo.
The troupe of comedy performers returned again this year to present their new show, A Fright to Remember, as the evening's entertainment.
Ms. Avison says the troupe was “amazing, and everyone raved about the entertainment, the absolutely delicious meal, and the gorgeous venue. It was an all-round wonderful evening filled with lots of laughter.”
Deanna reports 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism, with no two children on the spectrum the same.
“There are a substantial number of children in the community with autism, and other special needs, who will benefit from the funds raised through this event,” says the determined grandmother.
The money will help “supply essential tools and other necessary items the children need to help them through their day at school,” she says. “With our growing community, the number of children with special needs is only going to increase.”
Ms. Avison says she was amazed by the number of items the money from 2016 provided for the children.
“It touched my heart so much to see what the community helped do,” says Ms. Avison “and the difference we made for children to have the necessary tools they need in order to help them through their day at school.”
Money raised this year will go even further to help those kids and others in local schools.
The “autism grandma,” who says she is “driven by love to be a voice for children who face the challenges of living on the spectrum,” sends out a big thank you to everyone who sponsored and supported the event and opened their hearts to make the fundraiser such a huge success.
Thanks to Hearts Wide Open title sponsors:
GP CARPENTRY - Greg Patton
RBC BANK - Manager Josie Green
THE SHELBURNE TRANSPORTER - Neil and Brenda Haines
Theatre Sponsor CHRIS REED - I Pro Realty
SHELBURNE GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB
RAWLCO SERVICES - Pete Black
STOCK TRANSPORTATION - Site Manager - Sarah Brake
SCOTT REINHART TRAILERS
AUTO CENTRE DUFFERIN
THE SHELBURNE TRANSPORTER
RBC BANK SHELBURNE
BLACKIES STORAGE - Dave Black
NATIONAL BANK - Manager Sylvie Atwell
ZEHR'S ORANGEVILLE - Manager Tom Coogan
M & M FOOD MART ORANGEVILLE - Grant and Lauralee Laverty
ANNOYMOUS FRIEND OF HEARTS WIDE OPEN
Thanks also to all those who graciously donated items for the silent auction, Michael Roberts of DJ Master Mix for donating much of his services, the Shelburne Golf and Country Club chef and kitchen staff for a delicious meal, and Cindy McKenna and Beatrice Reed for decorating and supporting the event.
A special thank you goes to Councillor Wade Mills and the Town of Shelburne for presenting a proclamation to mark World Autism Day in Shelburne. Hearts Wide Open for Autism will return next year on Saturday, April 7, 2018.
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