Donna Swanson, executive director of the FOCUS Center for Autism and Fresh Start School, has one goal in mind: celebrate the attributes that make us unique and enrich our communities. With that in mind, FOCUS will be celebrating April’s National Autism Awareness Month with their first annual “Autism Sweets” fundraiser benefiting their art and physical education programs.
“Like other schools, we hold a couple fundraisers throughout the year. But for April, we also want a celebration. ‘Autism Sweets’ is a way of inviting businesses and neighbors to come together in a fun way that benefits everyone,” Swanson said.
“Autism Sweets 2018” kicks-off April 1. It is built on a simple premise of flexibility and creativity: local CT eateries can choose to designate a dessert, appetizer, or other menu item as an “Autism Sweet” and an agreed-upon percentage of that item(s)’ sales during one day, week, or entirety of April will be donated to FOCUS.
The goal is to raise one thousand dollars by the end of April and showcase CT eatery offerings to the larger public.
“This really is a win-win for everybody,”Swanson said. “We raise the profile of local restaurants to a larger audience, patrons walk away with a tasty treat, and we get to work our way towards our art and physical education goals.”
To date, Kenzie Kakes in Southington, the Underground Deli in New Britain, J. Timothy’s Taverne in Plainville and GIV Coffee in Canton have all signed on as “Autism Sweet 2018” partners. Others are in the process of joining. Partnering vendors will display an “Autism Sweets 2018” flyer indicating their participation to patrons.
The creative community spirit is indicative by how the varying establishments are choosing to participate. CCSU-favorite lunch stop, the Underground Deli, is recreating one of their famous sandwiches in honor of “Autism Sweets 2018.” GIV Coffee in Canton will be donating one dollar for every waffle ordered.
“As with most businesses, we are inundated on a daily basis with requests for donations and we are often put in the difficult position to make hard decisions on which ones to support,” Greg Gardner, manager of J. Timothy’s Taverne – renown for their chicken wings – and in-law to Swanson, said.
“Focus Center for Autism pretty much checks off all the boxes for the criteria we consider when choosing a recipient. They are a local, small nonprofit business doing wonderful work within the Autism community […] Their commitment to these kids and young adults they cater to is genuine […]. It is our hope that our participation in this program will enable them to continue their mission.”
The partnering establishments’ generosity confirms what Swanson has always felt about the CT towns she and FOCUS have served over the past 18 years. “It really does take a village to help us achieve the goals we set out to do. We are humbled and delighted by everyone’s response, and can’t wait to celebrate our neighbors as people to step into their shops and try out their delicious food,” Swanson said.
“Autism Sweets 2018” runs for the entire month of April. For a comprehensive and continuously updated list of participating vendors, visit the FOCUS Center for Autism Facebook page, or call the center at (860) 693-8809.