The first annual Autism Awareness Art Gala takes place this month.
The Autism Society of Wood Buffalo decided to start the event in hopes of raising funds and to bring more family assistance to Fort McMurray.
Kirsti Mardell is President of the Autism Society and she wants the gala to shed light on autism and provide closer help to families who need it.
As a mother of a son who struggles with autism – she tells Mix News she would like to see more support opportunities outside of schools.
“The supports here in Fort McMurray are decent for children in school, but the pre-school ages are kind of lacking the supports and the after-school opportunities are definitely lacking support.”
During the evacuation, last year – many parents whose children struggle with autism were shocked at the setup of autism societies like in Red Deer and Edmonton.
Mardell says that because of the lack of resources in Fort McMurray – some parents didn’t want to return.
She talks about the struggles her own son – who suffers from a non-verbal form of autism – has faced.
“Sometimes the doctors just kind of dismiss it and say that he’s okay and because he’s not crying and because he’s not in distress – like a typical person, they just dismiss the symptoms and say that he’s okay and sent us home.”
The Gala hopes to raise funds to help build a bigger resource center for the Autism Society and provide families with that closer assistance.
Mardell went to Red Deer and was amazed by the available resources.
She says that it made it very difficult to return.
“It blew my mind,” she said.
“I almost didn’t want to come back to Fort McMurray but now it has literally sparked a fire up underneath us that we are all wanting to change this community for the better. We’ve seen what other communities have and we want that for our community – we want to be able to stay here.”
The Gala will feature a comedy show, dinner and a live and silent auction from artists who are looking to raise funds in support of the Autism Society.
The event takes place on April 22nd.