NCAA Basketball Coaches and Fans Teaming Up for Autism Speaks

NCAA Basketball Coaches and Fans Teaming Up for Autism Speaks

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During the weekend of February 19 – 21, Princeton University will be uniting with more than 250 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s and women’s college basketball coaches for Coaches Powering Forward for Autism, a campaign to drive awareness and funds for Autism Speaks.

Spearheaded by NCAA basketball coaches, Pat Skerry and Tom Herrion, this third annual campaign provides coaches, their teams, schools and fans with opportunities to raise awareness, fundraise and advocate for the needs of people affected by autism. Coaches Powering Forward for Autism is a unique opportunity for the NCAA basketball community and fans to rally around their favorite team while raising funds and awareness for a good cause. Throughout the weekend, coaches along with fans, broadcasters and supporters will don the blue Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin during college basketball games.

Anyone can participate in Coaches Powering Forward for Autism by joining their favorite coach or school’s fundraising team during the NCAA basketball season at www.autismspeaks.org/coaches (the Princeton University donation page can be found at this link). Participants are encouraged to enlist others to join the campaign, with the goal of each team raising $6,800, a figure symbolic of the 1 in 68 children on the autism spectrum. The funds will go towards Autism Speaks’ research, family services and advocacy efforts on behalf of the autism community.

Coaches Powering Forward for Autism was created in 2014 after Pat Skerry and Tom Herrion embarked on a mission to raise awareness of autism. Inspired by their sons, both diagnosed with autism, they made a simple request to fellow coaches: Wear the Autism Speaks blue puzzle piece pin during televised games the first weekend of February that year. In an overwhelming response, more than 82 NCAA coaches and broadcasters took to the sidelines and airwaves throughout the weekend wearing the pin. In 2015, the support soared with close to 250 coaches and their staffs wearing the pins and more than 60 schools participating in the fund raising campaign. The goal for 2016 is to include the remaining Division I programs, along with programs in other divisions.

“Pat and Tom are advocates in every sense of the word. The campaign is a true grassroots effort, and it continues to grow under the Coaches Powering Forward for Autism banner with far more coaches, fans and broadcasters engaged,” said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks. “In addition, Pat and Tom have become great ambassadors for Autism Speaks by attending events across the country that demonstrate the importance of participation and volunteerism.”

Supporting Skerry and Herrion in Coaches Powering Forward for Autism is a group that includes some of the top names in college basketball: ESPN Basketball Analysts Jay Bilas and Seth Greenberg; former UConn Men’s Basketball Coach and Naismith Hall of Fame Inductee Jim Calhoun.

“I am excited to be part of Coaches Powering Forward for Autism again this season,” said Jay Bilas. “It’s important to draw as much attention to autism as possible. Working with Tom, Pat and Autism Speaks on Coaches Powering Forward for Autism does this and will help improve the lives of those with autism.”

“I first became involved with Autism Speaks when one of my grandchildren was diagnosed. I was impressed with the work that Autism Speaks was doing and quickly realized the importance of wearing the puzzle piece pin on the sidelines,” said Jim Calhoun. “It serves a couple of purposes, including creating much needed awareness while getting more people involved. Coaches Powering Forward for Autism will enable the college coaching community to use their visibility to help all of us make the lives of those with autism a little better.”

Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed $570 million to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 70 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, visit AutismSpeaks.org.

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Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Binghamton and a Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall Law School. In her free time, Mary fills her life with excessive self-reflection, creative endeavors, and photographing mushrooms. Mary also works as the PR Coordinator at the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, serves on the volunteer Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), holds a seat on the Hopewell Borough Board of Health, and is a member of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance.

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