4th Annual Autism Challenge planned for Autism Awareness Month

Release Date: 03/10/2017

Chris Ulmer, founder of Special Books by Special Kids, will be the featured speaker at a presentation at Presque Isle Middle School as well as at the Autism Challenge Dinner & Auction on Saturday, April 1. 
Aroostook County –
 April is Autism Awareness Month and the Aroostook Autism Support Group, located in Presque Isle, will be holding their fourth annual Autism Challenge, but this year with a slight twist.
            “The last three years our Autism Challenge, which is made up of two very different types of activities, has taken place on the same day,” explains Maeghan Swanson, co-founder of AASG.  "In an effort to increase participation and to accommodate many families, we decided to split the event into two different days, one at the start of the month and one at the end.  It’s a perfect way to celebrate autism awareness throughout the month designated for just such a purpose.”
The Autism Challenge Dinner & Auction takes place on Saturday, April 1, at the Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center.  The evening will feature guest speaker Chris Ulmer, a teacher and the founder of Special Books by Special Kids, a multi-media non-profit which is leading a worldwide acceptance movement that brings awareness of the joys, needs and struggles of the special needs community and promotes the acceptance and celebration of neurodiverse individuals by all.  Ulmer began his career as a special education teacher, but in 2016, he founded SBSK. He served as the Keynote Speaker for the 2016 National Autism Conference in New Orleans and has spoken at six international events including the 2016 Autism West Symposium in Fremantle, Australia.
The reception begins at 4:00 p.m., and participants will have the chance to enjoy music by Travis Cyr while socializing and bidding on the many silent auction items that will be placed around the room.  Ulmer’s presentation begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner following. After dinner, Terrance Reidy, president of the Presque Isle chapter of Standing Up for Us, will speak briefly, followed by a live auction.  There will be lots of fun items to bid on in both the silent and live auction, and all proceeds benefit the Aroostook Autism Support Group. 
“We are always so moved by the support we receive from our community for the Autism Challenge,” says Lisa Brewer, co-founder of AASG. “The money raised from this event helps us to put on several other events and to provide trainings that otherwise would not be available in our area.  Every sponsorship and donation makes a big difference for my family and others like ours.”
Tickets for the dinner and auction are $40/person, $70/couple, and $275/table of eight. For those purchasing a table, a complimentary bottle of wine will be provided at the table.  Single and couple tickets can be purchased online at www.aroostookautismsupportgroup.org.   To reserve a table, please email Swanson or Brewer at aasgmaine@hotmail.com.
Sponsors for the Autism Challenge Dinner & Auction include:  TAMC, Graves Super Markets, County Super Spuds, MMG Insurance, State Farm – John Harvell, Emera Maine, Gregg Auctions, Bangor Daily News, Norstate Federal Credit Union and the Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center.
For those not able to attend the Autism Challenge Dinner but interested in hearing more from Ulmer, he will also be speaking the morning of April 1 at the Presque Isle Middle School. His presentation, which begins at 9:00 a.m., is entitled “Building a Relationship and Connecting with Neurodiverse Individuals.”  The cost is $20 for those who register before March 19, or $30 for those who register after that date.  All attendees will receive a certificate of attendance.  Register at www.aroostookautismsupportgroup.org.
“We are thrilled to be able to bring Chris to the community and make it possible for a wide variety of people, from educators to family members and friends of those on the autism spectrum, to explore more about how to connect with these individuals,” says Swanson.
Ulmer will also be conducting interviews for Special Books by Special Kids. Those interested in applying for an interview can do so at www.specialbooksbyspecialkids.org/contract and enter “Autism Challenge 2017” with your entry.
The Autism Challenge continues on Saturday, April 29, with a Community Event activity.  As in the past, this event will include a physical activity component, but it will be expanded this year to a larger, more festive community event. 
“By separating this year's event, we have more time to build on our past success in this area,” explains Brewer.  “We’ll be sharing more details soon, but meanwhile, mark your calendars to take part in this fun event!”
Founded in 2014, the purpose of Aroostook Autism Support Group is to provide support to individuals and their families affected by autism.  AASG aims to promote education and awareness to build a community that offers both hope and acceptance to all in need.  The Autism Challenge is one way that the group raises money to help support their efforts throughout the year.
Local organizations or groups looking to support the efforts of the Autism Challenge monetarily or with auction items should contact Aroostook Autism Support Group at aasgmaine@hotmail.com.
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