by Lisa Ackerman
It’s the end of another year, 2016 is almost gone! Wasn’t it just June a minute ago? (I know I write a variation of this every year. But how is time marching along so fast?!)
TACA is growing every year. TACA is in a constant blur of activity; helping families, building relationships, and expanding our community. There is no slow time at TACA, we always struggle with the amount we need to get done. What I marvel at is we always get it done! This could not have happened without the fantastic people dedicated to the TACA mission. Thank you all.
Since TACA’s beginnings over 16 years ago, I have always sent 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.
I cannot believe while I type this that Jeff is now a 19-year-old man. It also seems like yesterday he was missing his front teeth and riding on my husband’s shoulders. In 2016, Jeff had a banner year. He lettered on the cross country team, went to prom, graduated high school and got accepted at his first choice college. Just this month, he finished his first semester at C-O-L-L-E-G-E. I will share that transitioning to college came with many challenges that were very hard but what a blessing it has been to see him rise above and meet those challenges with a smile. He has a 3.11 GPA in classes I would fail in.
He is dabbling in music learning to play piano, and despite not having P.E. high school requires, he stays fit and active with running, weight lifting, bike riding and loves playing smash ball on the beach. By far (and for several years in a row) his favorite activity is going to rock concerts and any outings with friends.
Jeff has come so far since his autism diagnosis and original prognosis (see earlier blogs for those details (1)!) One important lesson remains: All individuals diagnosed with autism can have a positive future and are worth every effort we do to support them.
NOW on to TACA: this incredible team of volunteers and staff work so hard in providing education, support, & empowerment to families living with autism.
Here are some highlights from 2016:
- TACA held our second annual Coffee Talk Day that gathered 509 people across the country.
- We added Four new chapters to serve their local community in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Hampshire.
- Over 21,000 attended free family events across the United States hosted by Chapters.
- Our national conference was held in Southern California with almost 900 attendees from 36 states.
- We distributed almost 2,000 Autism Journey Guides–free to families.
- We educated over 1,000 families through free live webinars.
- We provided 271 scholarships to families in need for medical care, summer camps, and other much-needed autism services.
This is only a very small portion of what TACA has accomplished in 2016. We will be publishing a full report in late January. As 2016 comes to an end, TACA counts over 50,000 families affected by autism in its community.
I know I have said thank you in general, but, I have some specific shout-outs for the TACA staff. Thank you to Jackie, Tracey, Di, Moira, Holly, Cindy, Janice, Nicole, Sim, Susan, Steph, Heather, Jacey, Jonathan and Ace. Thank you to the best Board who serve, guide and fundraise to help make it all happen (Glen, Pat, Dan, Elizabeth, Robby, Keith & Erich.)
A special, heartfelt thank you to our INCREDIBLE Volunteer Chapter Coordinators and Parent Mentors who serve selflessly. You are core to our mission of Families Helping Families and ensure that our programs reach many in local communities. TACA would be lost without this incredibly dedicated team of over 500 volunteers providing Real Help Now.
Another shout out to TACA’s Ambassadors and Physician Advisory Team. They support TACA in their professional circle and talk about curing autism on a regular basis. These friends have made invaluable contributions to help champion the mission with webinars, conference lectures, donated appointments, donations and their valuable time.
Much gratitude to the over 2,000 businesses and individuals that made donations in 2016. Thank you for always believing and supporting our mission.
And to TACA Families: Keep doing what you are doing. If you need help or want a refresher course, TACA is here for you. We believe in you. We believe in your kids. We see you working hard and all of us at TACA are proud of you! I hope you get an opportunity to check out the over 44 stories (with many more coming) on our 5th annual TACA Celebrations efforts where we celebrate our kid’s accomplishments over the last year. Be prepared to be inspired!
Autism is STILL the least funded disability in America with more individuals diagnosed than any other childhood disability. Despite this challenge, TACA continues to find ways to acquire help and provide our programs every year with very little funding. We are always looking for more help for our mission. Please share this blog with someone who can make a donation to help TACA assist more families living with autism.
In closing, 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. Thank you for being a friend to families living with autism.
Happy New Year!
All my best for 2017 & beyond,
TACA Executive Director & Co-founder, Mom to Jeff & Lauren, Grandma to Will and Wife to Glen
P.S. We need additional support for 2016. If you have a friend that would like to make a Gift of Hope donation in your family’s honor please help http://giftofhope.tacanow.org/