Autism awareness events starting up

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Campers at the Circle of Friends day camp get up close to see a replica volcano erupt during the final day of the camp in 2011. Herald file photo

Campers at the Circle of Friends day camp get up close to see a replica volcano erupt during the final day of the camp in 2011. Herald file photo

The Hormel Historic Home has been focused on autism awareness for about five years now, and although Autism Awareness month is April, organizers are getting a head start.

The HHH organizers hope to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community through several events that are scheduled in March and April, to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism.

“We start on Friday with our Art for Autism event,” Hormel Historic Home Executive Director Holly Johnson said.

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The event, which will take place at the Historic Hormel Home, has activities for both children with autism and parents. Participants can create a painting based on experiences or connections to autism, and they will be hung at the Austin ArtWorks center through April. Johnson said this event is new this year and hoped for a good turnout. Participants are required to sign up for the event ahead of time due to limited space.

“It’s just something new for us,” she said. “We’re always trying to raise awareness.”

The HHH has held summer two day-camps for about five years, and this year will add a third camp. Elementary-age campers can sign up for the Circle of Friends day camp, from July 13-17; sixth-12th-grade campers can sign up for All Access Community Explorations day camp from the end of June through the first of August; and the third camp, Camp Just For Me, is need-based on Mondays from the end of June through the first of August.

Johnson said the effort to raise awareness came after the banquet center was added to the HHH in 2009.

“They just made a commitment to continue using the banquet center for community resources,” Johnson said.

“There was an obvious need in the community for activities specifically designed for kids with autism,” she added.

Although the HHH organizers host the events, they hire staff who work specifically with children who have autism. Organizers also receive funds from the United Way of Mower County and The Hormel Foundation, as well as private donors.

Johnson said the main fundraiser event is the Stepping Out for Autism Walk, which has take place the last three years. She noted there will also be a bagging-groceries fundraiser at Hy-Vee in Austin, and a community education Autism Awareness night in March and April.

“To again just keep raising awareness about the needs that are out there for this community,” Johnson said.



She stressed the importance of bringing awareness and education to the community and to families.

“As these kids grow up they’re going to be adults that need jobs and services, so really it effects everybody,” she said.

Johnson said the summer camps and programs show no sign of slowing down in the future, as many people have donated to the cause and partnered to help bring awareness of these children’s needs to the community. She said organizers are always open for ideas.

“There’s just very unique needs and I just hope that the community would become more aware that kids and families need their support,” Johnson said.

She noted all the money that is raised at fundraisers stays in Mower County and helps local children with autism, helping fund the summer camps and the staff to work those camps.

Open registration starts April 1, and the forms are available online or school personnel can direct parents for where to go.

Events coming up to raise funds for the autism summer camps:

—March 13, an Art for Autism event will be held at the Hormel Historic Home. Anyone is welcome to register. This will be a time to socialize and create art that represents the prevalence of Autism in society. Each artist will be able to customize their painting based on their own experience or connection to ASD.

In partnership with the Austin ArtWorks Center, the artists’ work will be featured in the “Emerging Artists” gallery for the month of April. A free Opening Night Gallery event will be held on Friday, April 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. so the public can view the art. Some will be available for purchase. Proceeds from these two events will support the summer autism programming sponsored by the Hormel Historic Home.

—March 28, volunteers from the Autism programming team at the Hormel Historic Home will be bagging groceries at Austin’s Hy-Vee to shine light on the issue of Autism. Shoppers will have be able to talk with key personnel regarding the issue of Autism.

—April 7, Austin’s Community Education will host an Autism Awareness night at the HHH. Program will include a large group session focusing on ASD basic facts (Autism 101), followed by breakout sessions with focus on: The Power of Visuals; Setting Kids up for Success; and Sensory Sensitivities and Interventions. Participants will select two of the three breakout sessions upon registration. Bring a writing utensil.
CEUs are available upon request when registering.

Register at Click on the community education button and the program number is WS901. Cost is $16 per person paid to Community Ed, not the HHH.

—April 18, the fourth annual Stepping Out for Autism Walk will take place. The community fundraising event to support the Summer Autism programming at the HHH will raise funds which are used to support the summer camps offered for the area on the Autism Spectrum. Programming has been offered since 2010 with nearly 50 youth attending each year.