Expressions Gala 2016 Benefits Autism Speaks

Eyas Landing and Blue Bird Day Therapeutic Preschool & Kindergarten hosted a fundraising benefit for Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization on Saturday, May 7. For the inaugural event, called Expressions Gala 2016, more than 60 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other sensory processing disorders created colorful, inspired paintings that looked right at home on the walls of Art Space 8, a Chicago gallery specializing in fine art, contemporary paintings, prints, and sculpture. Each of the paintings reflected the remarkable variation in abilities and disabilities among children with sensory processing disorders and served as a reminder of their exceptional potential.

Over 250 guests were in attendance, each motivated in one way or another to improve the lives of children with ASD and eager to offer their generous support through their time and donations. The artwork created by the children was made available in a silent auction and winning bidders took home a tangible reminder of the spirit of the evening. Along with the children’s artwork, there were also silent auctions for a wide range of special items donated especially for the event, including a painting by Art Space 8 gallery artist Fidel Rodriguez, a Jake Arrieta autographed baseball, tickets to a White Sox home game, and many others. Besides the silent auctions, raffles for everything from hot lunches to a weekend getaway added to the fun. In all, donations totaling $13,000 were collected at Expressions Gala 2016 — plus an additional $10,000 was collected for the Autism Speaks Walk, an annual event supported by Eyas Landing and Blue Bird Day since 2010 — for a total of $23,000.

An Evening Benefiting People and Families Affected by ASD
Of course the focus of the evening was benefiting people and families affected by ASD through fundraising for research into the causes of ASD, expanding early behavioral therapy for children, and increasing awareness among the broader public. For example, Centers for Disease Control estimates around 1 in 68 children in the United States are on the autism spectrum. Even though these children are bright, creative individuals who develop in their own unique ways, not everyone understands that in spite of their challenges they have much to offer. Since 2007, Eyas Landing’s certified therapists have provided a variety of multidisciplinary therapeutic services for over 200 children diagnosed with ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorders, apraxia, stuttering and sensory-based feeding disorders. Forty-eight students, ages 2-6, attend Blue Bird Day, where goals and treatment plans are individualized to meet each student’s needs, including daily speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavior therapy, and feeding therapy sessions. Every day in the clinic and in the classroom, Eyas Landing and Blue Bird Day see that every child has unlimited potential.

As Dr. Laura Hawkesworth Mraz of Eyas Landing said in her remarks, “Tonight, together, we become stronger. Together we are a united community with the power to better the lives of our children, to provide them with new and promising opportunities to learn and to grow, and to help them to build a brighter future for themselves.”

Expressions Gala attendees
Expressions Gala attendees with painting by autistic child
Expressions Gala paintings by autistic children