Over $3,500 was donated to the Autism Project of Southern Ohio on May 12.
Alyssa Hiles, in collaboration with Subway and Market Street Cafe, raised the funds.
Hiles is a freshman at Notre Dame High School, this is the second year that she has raised funds for the Autism Project of Southern Ohio.
The Autism Project of Southern Ohio was founded in 2006, and was officially recognized as a nonprofit organization in 2007. It was created by a group of parents seeking support for their autistic children.
Their mission is to raise autism awareness in southern Ohio and educate the public about autism. They also offer support services to those with autism and Asperger’s, and help autistic children and adults be the best they can be in school and in the community.
Autism is something that Hiles feels passionately about and that is because she is one of 3.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder.
“I asked Kandi (her aide) when Autism awareness day was,” said Hiles. “Once we found out, I started coming up with ideas to raise money. The first year went really well, so I thought ‘Lets do it again this year!’”
Kandi Craig has been working with Alyssa since Kindergarten, and has followed her throughout her school career.
“Most of it has been her idea, she wants everyone to know that she has autism and how her school day is different from that of the other students. She spoke in front of the whole school, both the high school and elementary and told them her struggles and how she learns and what it’s like living with autism” said Craig.
With the support of her school and the community Hiles organized bake sales, sold Autism Awareness bracelets, and held community fundraisers. She raffled off a basket donated by Buffalo Wild Wings, held talks with students about her life and what it’s like to be autistic. She also sponsored “Dress Down Days,” where students could bring in a donation and get out of wearing their uniform to school.
Jamie Dettwiller, owner of local Subway franchises, partnered with Alyssa to help collect donations. Her great nephew Camden Uhl, is a student at Notre Dame Elementary and he too, has autism.
Dettwiller created the “Alyssa and Camden Special” at five area Subway locations, Waverly, Lucasville, West Portsmouth, Gallia Street and Walmart.
“Every Friday we gave a free cookie to every customer and five percent of our sales for the month of April went towards the Autism Project of Southern Ohio,” said Dettwiller.
Dettwiller wasn’t the only one to assist with raising money, Susan O’Neill from Market Street Cafe also teamed up to assist in the efforts.
“My mom (Mary Rase) and I baked cookies, and on every Thursday of the month, she would come down to the shop. We baked the cookies and iced them and she bagged them up and added her autism awareness stickers on them,” explained O’Neill.
Between selling the cookies at Market Street and the bake sales organized by Hiles, about 500 cookies were sold.
“She did a great job, she organized it, MacKenzie Brown and Kandi helped her. Her brother was in my daughter’s class so I’ve watched her grow up and she’s just done an amazing job. I’m very proud of her,” said O’Neill.
Hiles presented the check to Mike Bell, the president of the Autism Project of Southern Ohio.
“It’s going to a make a huge difference. Each year, schools send us their wish lists for the Multi-Handicap classrooms. It can be difficult for us to go out and shop for all the schools. We decided it would be best to split the donations and give the money to the schools so they can buy whatever supplies are needed,” explained Bell.
According to the Autism Society, the average cost of educating a student is about $12,000. It costs more than $8,600 extra per year to educate a student with autism.
“There may be some things they need and are embarrassed to ask us for,” said Bell, “Or they may not need much right now, but something could come up and they can use the funds to replace something or other needs that they see.”
Hiles hopes to continue her campaign to raise autism awareness and help those in the autism community for many years to come.
For more information about the Autism Project of Southern Ohio and their services, please contact (740) 464-6781. You can also find more information by searching “Autism Project of Southern Ohio” on Facebook.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-353-3101 ext 1932 or via Twitter @PDT_Ciara