by Lisa Ackerman
It’s the end of another year, 2017 is almost gone! How does that happen!? Wasn’t it just April last month? (I know I write a variation of this every year. But how is time marching along so fast?!)
So here we are: 2017 is another record year for this great organization. TACA is in a constant blur of activity, growing every year, helping families, building relationships and expanding our community. I have come to realize that there is no slow time at TACA. 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 began over 17 years ago, I have always sent out an end of year update. I would like to begin with Jeff—he is my TACA inspiration and keeps me going.
A mind-blowing thought is dear Jeff, the inspiration behind TACA, is now a 20-year-old man. It was just yesterday he was in elementary school. Today, he is in COLLEGE!
Surviving his freshman year and half way though his sophomore year has been nothing short of incredible. At some point, I need to spend more time on that topic. To really demonstrate his growth this year I will share just one example; English class. To help send the point of success home with you, check out the English reading list: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Aeneid by Virgil, The Iliad by Homer, Shijing’s book of songs, King Henry IV part one by Shakespeare, Dante’s Inferno and Antigone. HE READ AND WAS TESTED ON THIS BOOK LIST IN ONE SEMESTER!!
Despite the HUGE, complex reading list and work load: Jeff has a 3.2 GPA average. I would most definitely fail in the level of work he is doing.
Jeff continues music lessons in piano and guitar. He tells me his favorite instrument is piano. I love that he practices music at least one hour every day. He continues to commit to regular exercise and helping me in the kitchen. He makes a mean GFCF pasta. This year, we have loved on 5 concerts including: U2, Imagine Dragons, Jacks 12th Show, KROQ Weenie Roast and more. His by far favorite activity is anything to do with live music.
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 2017:
• 175 scholarships were provided to families in need. These include: 89 medical assistance scholarships, 60 Hurricane victims, 23 summer camp attendance and, 3 swimming lessons.
• 3rd Annual National Coffee Talk Day in 75 locations gathering 515 people across the country.
• 620 families were matched in our mentor program to more effectively navigate their autism journey.
• Regional Conferences held in Georgia and Pennsylvania with almost 700 attendees.
• National TACA Autism Conference was held in Southern California with almost 1,100 attendees.
• 1,956 families were educated through free live webinars.
This is only a small portion of what TACA has accomplished in 2017. We will be publishing a full report in early February. As 2017 comes to an end, TACA counts almost 55,000 families affected by autism in its membership.
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, Tara, Jonathan, Ace and Monette. Thank you to the best Board who serve, guide and fundraise to help make it all happen (Glen, Pat, Dan, Elizabeth, Robby, Keith & Erich.) I am also very excited and grateful to add a new board member Kim Yang Uk (2.) This team is the best!
A special, heartfelt thank you to our 70 INCREDIBLE Volunteer Chapter Coordinators leading chapters in their areas across the country and our 245 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 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.
To our donors: thank you for investing in TACA. Your support is helping us make a difference and I am grateful.
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 almost 50 newly collected stories on our 6th Annual TACA Celebrations effort where we celebrate our kids’ accomplishments over the last year. You can see these on our national Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/talkaboutcuringautism/. Be prepared to be inspired!
Despite my hopes and wishes for each new year, autism is STILL the least funded disability in America with more individuals diagnosed than any other childhood disability. The newest CDC funded survey now reports 1 in 36 U.S. children have been diagnosed with autism (3.) TACA continues to find ways to acquire help and provide our programs every year with little funding. We are always looking for more help for our mission. We are asking the families we serve to 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 our kids. Together we can MOVE AUTISM FORWARD. Thank you for being a friend to families living with autism.
Happy New Year!
All my best for 2018 & beyond,
TACA Executive Director & Co-founder, Mom to Jeff & Lauren, grandma to Will and wife to Glen
P.S. We need additional support for TACA’s mission and programs. If you have a friend that would like to make a gift to help move autism forward in your family’s honor please help http://moveautismforward.tacanow.org/
1) Some past blogs:
2) TACA Board: https://www.tacanow.org/about-taca/board-members/