The Nicholas Center participated in a fund-raiser with the New York Yankees for World Autism Day at their Sunday game, with every ticket sold that used the center’s promo code donating $5 to the center.
The Nicholas Center is a Port Washington-based organization that supports individuals with autism. Director of Development Lee Anne Vetrone said the center was invited by the Yankees organization to participate in the fund-raiser for World Autism Day at the stadium.
April is Autism Awareness Month, which Vetrone also referred to as Autism Acceptance Month. She said events for Autism Awareness Month are great initiatives to show the need to include individuals with autism in all facets of life, community and work.
Individuals were able to purchase tickets online and use The Nicholas Center’s promo code “TNCNY.” The first 1,000 tickets purchased included an exclusive Yankees hat with the team’s logo merged with the Autism Puzzle Piece logo. Every ticket included one free hot dog and drink.
Vetrone said the money raised through this event will go towards promoting the center’s programming and mission, which is to “revolutionize the way autistic adults learn, live and work.” She said the center has not been told yet how much money was raised through the fund-raiser.
The Nicholas Center provides a multitude of programs, including vocational training and job support, community inclusion, home and community-based services and virtual programming for its participants.
Through its program for vocational training and job support, the center is able to assist participants with employment opportunities. Vetrone said adults with autism are underemployed and experience high unemployment rates.
One of the center’s participants interned at a SoBol, an acai cafe, with support from the Nicholas Center and was recently offered a full-time job at the store.
Vetrone said this was an example of “the dream” The Nicholas Center strives for in promoting independence for adults with autism and it is supported in part through programs such as the fund-raiser at Yankee Stadium.
“She feels great about herself,” Vetrone said about the recent cafe hire. “She feels accomplished and confident and that’s the goal.”
While the programs provided by The Nicholas Center benefit its participants, Vetrone said many of their programs also benefit the broader community by including their participants in community work. One such program is Port Provides, powered by The Nicholas Center, which is a food bank delivery program that provides food and essential items to community members in need.
She said this has been a beneficial program for community members who are underserved and who are underemployed.
“We strive to bring much more awareness and much more attention to specifically what we do, which is to fold [individuals with autism] into the fabric of the community where we live and work,” Vetrone said.
Vetrone added that many people with autism experience what she called under-engagement, meaning they can be disconnected from their communities. Programming to combat this is another initiative of The Nicholas Center.
“We all want to be in community and in connection with our neighbors,” Vetrone said. “The Nicholas Center brings individuals together to form those vital connections and friendships that continue outside of our walls. That’s really, really important and makes everybody feel fulfilled as a person.”
While the month of April is dedicated to autism awareness and acceptance, Vetrone said that it really is an initiative for the entire year.
“It shouldn’t just be April where we celebrate autism acceptance,” Vetrone said.
The Nicholas Center is hosting more fund-raisers during the year for community members to participate in, Vetrone said. Community members can find additional information on the center’s website.