Four local McDonald’s restaurants raised a total of $3,500 last week, as they celebrated their second annual Light it up Blue fundraiser for autism. The four locations to participate were Portsmouth, Wheelersburg, Rosemount and Vanceburg, Ky., with Portsmouth taking the trophy as the winning location, bringing in $1,593. Wheelersburg came in a close second, with a total of $1,340.88.
“A lot of families in the area that have a child with autism don’t have a lot of money. What money they do have typically goes towards medical expenses,” McDonald’s salary manager Ray Shonkwiler said. “So, they’ll use the money to purchase things they need or entertainment needs. I think they bought a swing for Millbrook Park last year with the money we raised, since a lot of autistic children are handicapped.”
Shonkwiler said that the money raised doesn’t go towards medical expenses.
“The money will go towards tickets for Cincinnati Reds games and stuff like that,” Shonkwiler said. “I think it is very important. As a child, I’m sure many of us played softball and things like that. Some don’t even have luxuries of going to the movies. All kids deserve the ability to participate in things that are fun. This money won’t go for medical expenses; it will just give them the means for a better life.”
This year’s Light it up Blue event had a groovy disco and 70s theme, with a dance floor, lots of hair, and a DJ playing the music that many grew up on. Shonkwiler said that he chose the theme out of selfish nostalgia, since he grew up in that era.
“The 70s were really in full swing when I was in my late-teens, early 20s. We had a disco in town called Peter-O’s Disco, which was legendary,” Shonkwiler said. “They even had a disco in the back for teenagers. I just loved that time and it also made the event retro for my employees that didn’t get to experience that period.”
The DJ was playing 70s disco in the front of the building, where they had setup a disco floor.
“The young kids with autism went wild. They were dancing and loving it. One of them, Andrew, even won a trophy. He was so excited, he was reaching for the sky and was doing really, really well,” Shonkwiler said. “He is in a wheelchair, but his mother had him up and was dancing. His family just had tears in their eyes. That’s what it is all about, just giving back to the community.”
Shonkwiler said that he will be organizing another event next year. He has not decided on a theme yet, but is considering an intergalactic or Disney theme.
The money raised will go towards the Southern Ohio Autistic Foundation. They host two fundraising events for the foundation each year.
Shonkwiler told the Times that he is always pushing for community service at his Portsmouth location and schools and organizations can call to request information at 740-353-7193.
“This place was packed. People were in here from wall-to-wall. Some not even purchasing anything, just here to celebrate,” Shonkwiler said. “We had a blast.”
Joseph Pratt can be contacted at Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.