Light It Blue, Michigan

When she was 21 months old, Jenna stopped speaking to her parents.

The bright-eyed little girl whose vocabulary once consisted of hundreds of words simply did not talk anymore; instead, she began pointing a chubby finger at objects in front of her and fell into screaming fits when she didn’t get the things that she wanted. And the brightness that once lit up her dark blue eyes was suddenly replaced by a dull, vacant stare.

Despite what the doctor first told Jenna’s parents, they knew deep in their hearts what was going on with their precious little girl: Jenna had developed autism. And for years to come, she would face long and difficult challenges with neurological, motor, behavioral, and social skill development.

Jenna’s life — and the lives of her parents — was changed forever.

It’s a story that rings true for hundreds of thousands of children and families throughout the United States. According to a recent government report, an estimated 1.5 million people in America currently have autism, and that number continues to grow. In fact, it is now estimated that a child has a greater risk of being diagnosed with autism than childhood cancer, diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined.

But another fact that you may not know is equally shocking: the state of Michigan holds the fourth largest percentage of the current autistic population. According to a recent Michigan State University study, there are more than 15,000 children affected with autism in the public school system alone.

As a Michigan resident and the father of a young autistic son, I have become one of those statistics. That’s why our organization, Corner Pieces, was created with a mission to improve the well being of children and families living with autism throughout Michigan and surrounding states. Since its founding several years ago, Corner Pieces has always strived to educate and raise awareness about this mysterious disorder, as well as provide support, encouragement, and resources for affected families.

As you may or may not know, April is the designated month for autism awareness. Starting April 2, 2012 — Global Autism Awareness Day — Corner Pieces will embark on the Light It Blue: Michigan project, a unique event that will have a broad, and hopefully long-lasting, reach across the entire state.

For the entire month of April, Corner Pieces intends to light the Mackinac Bridge blue in recognition of autism awareness. Although this will be a wonderful project for our organization, we are still faced with the task of raising the necessary funds to carry it out. If we are to successfully incur the costs of labor and bulbs to light the entire bridge, as well as radio and newspaper ads and promotional materials for the toll booths, we must raise a total amount of $12,000. Part of those funds will also be used to give away iPads to one autistic child from each of Michigan’s four regions throughout the month of April.

As an organization, the successes we enjoy are often due to the support of individuals and businesses that care deeply about those who must deal with the life-changing reality of autism. That’s why I’m hoping that you will partner with us and help make the Light It Blue project become reality. Any sponsorship amount — $100, $250, $500 or more — will be greatly appreciated, but whatever you are able to provide, you will enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you are somehow playing a role in the lives of thousands of Michigan’s autistic families. What’s more, others will be inspired to follow your lead and take a stand in the fight against autism.

Will you help us advance this cause today? I hope that you will not only be able to participate in the Light It Blue event, but will spread the word to friends, family, and business acquaintances about this project and the work of Corner Pieces.

Thank you in advance for your generosity and concern for the autistic community.

–Ben Duff,President,Corner Pieces