By Lisa Ackerman
It’s the end of another year (didn’t I just write this?), GOODBYE 2013! Hello 2014! As usual, TACA was a whirlwind of activity all year; helping families, educating about autism and treatments, and expanding our community. This could not have happened without the INCREDIBLE people dedicated to the TACA mission. Thank you all.
Since TACA’s beginnings nearly 14 years ago, I have been sending out an end of year update. This year as usual, I would like to begin with a Jeff update—he is my TACA inspiration and keeps me going.
This man Jeff, now 16 years old, is my hero. Each year he strives to meet challenges and always faces each one with a smile. Today, he is in a regular 10th grade class. His strengths continue to be Algebra, Science and a growing interest in biology. This year he ran on his cross country team and continues to excel in his classes. His obstacles seem to become smaller and his personality and strengths continue to grow.
At the beginning of our journey many professionals told me “there is nothing you can do”. Like many of you, even to this date, we also heard those words. There are so many kids that crush that sentence and prove these individuals wrong including my son Jeff. It is always my hope for every family to find their inspiration and look beyond any label towards their goals. I have witnessed hundreds of kids break down barriers towards success. But there still MANY families and their children who need to reach out and receive help from TACA.
One important lesson remains: Our kids need us to never give up. I love TACA families because they have hope and believe in a future for all of our kids.
Our team is busy compiling the milestones and records broken from our 2013 program delivery. Here’s just a handful of program highlights:
- TACA’s parent support & volunteer team responded to over 28,000 calls (English and Spanish) for empowerment and support via phone, email and live chat. This is a new record for TACA (again!)
- Chapters & meetings: TACA’s volunteer chapter leaders and key volunteers brought TACA’s mission to their community. 26 chapters in 20 states held over 325 meetings & coffee talks across the U.S.
- We distributed almost 3,000 Autism Journey Guides free to families in need thanks to a special donor.
- The TACA website has grown again with more than two dozen new articles. On average, TACA receives over 70,000 unique visitors each month being the main way families find information.
- TACA participated in 20 social gatherings and events where almost 15,000 parents and children gathered in an autism friendly environment.
- TACA held three Real Help Now Conferences in the Midwest, East and West coasts.
- This year, TACA Mentors have made over 620 connections. TACA mentors reached out to support families needing assistance on their autism journey.
- TACA has provided 165 scholarships meeting a variety of different needs across the U.S.
- TACAnowblog.com with a record 86 posts (including 29 guests posts from our Physician Advisory board, TACA families and staff) with over 100,000 readers.
- Thousands of Facebook and Twitter posts including news stories, TACA family-friendly and allergen-free recipes, treatment stories, tips, and TACA inspirational stories are posted daily.
- TACA launched our family story campaign and acquired 25 new detailed autism journey stories to inspire and highlight children overcoming the odds.
- Additional TACA programs across the U.S. – Read more about TACA’s programs: http://www.tacanow.org/
This is only 1/5 of what we have been able to achieve at TACA. As 2013 comes to an end, TACA counts over 38,000 families affected by autism in its community. On average, TACA provides support to an average of 700 new families each month.
I know I have said thank-you in general, but, I’ve got some specific shout-outs for my TACA staff. I am deeply thankful to Violette, Jackie, Dan, Di, Stephanie, Nicole, Trang, Mari, Moira, Holly, Julie, Laura, Maggie, Cindy, Janice, Summer, Britt, Chris and Brenda. Thank you to all the office/event volunteers. Thank you to the TACA Board who serve, guide and fundraise to help make it all happen (this hero list includes: Glen, Pat, Dan, Chad, Elizabeth and new board member Robby).
I have a special, heartfelt thank you to our Volunteer Chapter Coordinators and the Parent Mentors who serve selflessly. You are the core of our mission of Families Helping Families and ensure that our programs reach those in their local communities. TACA would be lost without this dedicated team of over 500 volunteers providing Real Help Now. This team was responsible for 70% of our parent support efforts!
In our 4th year for the Ambassadors and Physician Advisory Team we have accomplished great steps for the TACA mission. Ambassadors and Physician Advisors support TACA in their professional circle and talk about curing autism on a regular basis.
In closing, this economy has affected TACA families and this foundation in a major way for the last five years. We have again learned to do MORE with LESS. As with all non profits the economy has had an impact on donations. Despite this challenge, we have found ways to acquire help and continue providing our programs. My gratitude goes out to the nearly 2,000 businesses and individuals who have donated to TACA this year.
Our 2013 major donors include: Happy Family/Zane ZK, Oakley, Jack FM/Live Nation, Oxyhealth, Dave & Buster’s, Kirkman Group, OC Community Foundation, CellPoint, Bikram Yoga Silverlake, Mendability, Buchanan Street Children’s Charities, Enzymedica & Autism Hope Alliance, Gladiator events with Dan “Nitro” Clark, Inhouse IT, Midwest Insurance, Hawaii Autism Foundation, the Carney Family, the Aronoff Family, Dito Devcar Foundation, the Khoshbin Family, Ride for Autism- Los Angeles, Warne Family Charitable Foundation, Elizabeth McCoy, Microsemi, the Banning Family, Train4Autism, the Kalmick Family, Goldman Sachs, the Norman and Susan Abazoris Foundation, Ready at Dawn Studios, Jimmies Golf, the McIlvain Family, Whole Foods, Drund, the Gupta Family, and countless others.
To everyone who helped us financially, we appreciate you believing in and supporting our mission.
And to TACA families; since 2006, services have dropped below to an almost non-existent level and you are struggling more than ever before. TACA will be here for you. Please keep telling us your needs and we will do our best to help fight for your children’s future.
Finally, to TACA families and friends – The hope I have for my child and all our children remains. Together, we will work towards the future and create positive outcomes for all of our kids. Wishing you the happiest of new years!
All my best for 2014 & beyond,
Lisa Ackerman – TACA Executive Director & Founding Board member
Mom to Jeff & Lauren, wife to Glen
P.S. We need additional support to meet the needs of 2014. If you have a friend who would like to make a donation in your family’s honor, it can be done here: https://www.tacanow.org/ways-to-help/donate/