Notre Dame High School student Alyssa Hiles, 17 and a junior, has a pretty good reason for having spent at least part of all her high school years so far raising money for the Autism Project of Southern Ohio.
“I just want to help people with my disability,” Alyssa said. “It can be hard.”
At least during a brief interview, there are few outward signs Alyssa has autism herself. Nevertheless, she attends school only with help of an aide who is with her throughout every school day. Alyssa said she wants her fellow students to understand why she needs the aide, but also why they have no reason to fear her or others like her.
On Thursday, Alyssa presented Autism Project of Southern Ohio President Michael Bell with a check for $2,250 she had raised mostly selling cookies from the Market Street Café.
“We held a big bake sale,” Alyssa said.
She also received help from businesswoman Jamie Detwiller, who helped raise funds at her five Scioto County Subway restaurants each Friday of Autism Awareness Month marked in April.
In addition to raising money, Alyssa even gives a speech every year about autism for her entire school. While the thought of speaking to an entire high school at age 17, or any age for that matter, might frighten some people into speechlessness (including this writer), Alyssa is nonplussed about the experience. She expresses that she has no fear of speaking whatsoever and has been a guest speaker for the Autism Project
Alyssa further currently helps with a research project run by a Cincinnati children’s hospital. Aide Kandi Craig, who has been with Alyssa since kindergarten, said the hospital is doing a study of possible links between autism and DNA. Toward that end, they are trying to collect all the DNA samples they possibly can get.
“She’s encouraging people to go spit,” Craig said, drawing a laugh from Alyssa.
In the past, Bell has noted all money donated to the Autism Project stays local to help local residents dealing with autism.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931