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News Nonprofit: Autism center receives surprise makeover

Nonprofit: Autism center receives surprise makeover

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A gift out of the blue has transformed both the faces and the facility of Hope Center for Autism, a nonprofit organization in Fort Worth for people with autism spectrum disorders.

In early November, 50 employees of Vivint Inc., a Utah-based provider of smart home technology, volunteered from across the United States to help build sensory rooms at the Hope Center as part of its Vivint Gives Back program.

“A sensory room is a therapeutic space designed to help children with special needs. Sensory rooms encourage safe exploration, facilitate therapy and foster independence,” said Holly Mero, director of Vivint Gives Back.

The program focuses on simplifying home life for families of people with intellectual disabilities. For the past two years, Vivint Gives Back has been building sensory rooms at local centers, schools and homes throughout the United States and Canada. Employees donated more than $2 million and 40,000 volunteer hours in 2014. Vivint will complete 26 sensory rooms in 2015. The company’s goal is to install 120 sensory rooms over the next five years, according to Mero.

Thanks to Vivint’s donation of $60,000 for construction supplies and services, Hope Center has new indoor sensory rooms, an outside sensory play area with new equipment and three therapy-specific rooms with sensory components, including a rock-climbing wall, a ladder swing, new stuffed animals and toys, and a new computer and desk. Volunteers also painted rooms, installed multiple storage cabinets and made repairs.

“This was amazing. The volunteers and the staff and the kids are so excited,” said Susan Wood, executive director and co-founder of Hope Center for Autism and an early childhood educator. “It was very unexpected.”

The donation came about by chance. Wood had sat next to Melva Rush, a real estate agent in Arlington, at a luncheon last spring. Rush’s husband, Tommy, works for Vivint. When Rush heard about Hope Center, she nominated the nonprofit for the makeover project.

Susan and her husband, Glenn Wood, along with some concerned parents, formed Hope Center for Autism in 2007. The center provides one-on-one Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy to children with autism by focusing on language skills, cognitive development, self-help and the social and play skills necessary for successful and productive lives. The organization also provides support and training for parents and families affected by autism. Hope Center has an annual budget of about $800,000 and a staff of 16. It has been in its present location for five years. About 47 families are currently enrolled.

“We were on a wing and a prayer getting started. It was week to week. We had to have parents pay in advance so I could pay the staff. We put this organization together in this tiny building and it’s just flourished,” Wood said. “Fast forward to now. This remodel has given us all a major adrenaline surge. It’s recharged me, recharged all of us.”

Wood said Vivint’s donation will go a long way to enable children with autism and their families to live more fully functional lives.

“What we do works. Children with autism can get better but it requires a lot of therapy,” she said. “I believe these kids can be so much more. It’s our job to help them reach their full potential in all areas of their development.”

SPEEDWAY CHILDREN’S CHARITIES

REACHES $10M MILESTONE

Texas Motor Speedway continued its tradition of lighting “the Biggest Living Christmas Tree in Texas” on Dec. 1 and the presentation of grants to local charities by Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter.

This year SCC-Texas Chapter reached a milestone by surpassing $10 million in funds raised through special events since the fund was created in 1997, with the majority occuring during three major race weeks at the speedway. Nearly $300,000 in grants was awarded, including the Founder’s Grant to the Foundation for the Callier Center and Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Grants also went to Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, Cook Children’s Fort Worth, Camp iHope, Denton Kiwanis Children’s Clinic, PediPlace and the University of North Texas Health Science Center. A special presentation was made to the Do It For Durrett Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping families affected by sudden loss.

The festivities ended with the distribution of 100 bikes and helmets to area children representing A WARM Place and a Wish with Wings, compliments of SCC board members Chalmer and Karen McWilliams, George and Linda Campbell and Cherie and Ron Rodenburgh.

COLONIAL’S PGA EVENT

RAISES $9.1M FOR CHARITY

Colonial Country Club’s annual PGA Tour event scored another fundraising record in 2015, tallying $9.1 million in its charitable effort.

Representatives from 33 local nonprofit organizations gathered at Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club on Nov. 5 to celebrate more than $8 million generated from the tournament’s annual Birdies For Charity campaign.

In that program, nonprofits solicited pledges from individuals and corporations for every birdie a golfer made during the tournament. During the championship, the pros did their part by making 1,290 birdies.

The money realized from the Birdies campaign is a major part of the final figure of $9.1 million raised by sponsors, donors, volunteers and fans for charitable organizations throughout the year from tournament activities and initiatives.

The $8 million is one of the largest amounts raised on the PGA Tour, and the most ever for Colonial. Since the program’s inception in 2005, the campaign has raised more than $48 million for participating nonprofits.

As a bonus, the pledge efforts were energized by a matching fund of $275,000 from Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts and Colonial Country Club.

The tournament has generated cash and services for more than 150 organizations in the last 25 years totaling more than $80 million. That amount includes more than $8.5 million raised for its primary beneficiary, Cook Children’s Medical Center.

AND THE FUNDS GO TO …

American Aero FTW, a fixed-base operator located at Meacham International Airport, presented a $20,000 check to the Navy SEAL Foundation, which provides support to the Naval Special Warfare Community and its families during times of illness, injury and loss. … Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation awarded more than $102,000 to Dallas-Fort Worth first responders, including $20,095 for protective firefighting gear to the city of Kennedale; — photo — an external defibrillator worth $24,094 to River Oaks Fire Department; portable radios worth $6,193 to Sansom Park Fire Department; a fire extinguisher training system worth $13,627 to Haltom City Fire Rescue; $19,984 worth of bulletproof vests to the Collin County Sheriff’s Office; and $18,214 for a fire extinguisher training system for the Allen Fire Department. … Smithfield Foods, Kroger and Richard Petty Motorsports donated 25,000 pounds of protein to the Tarrant Area Food Bank – photo — that will provide for 100,000 or more servings to those in need. … Ally Financial and Classic Chevrolet of Grapevine presented more than $180,000 in donations to 10 local charities, including 6 Stones Mission Network, Christ’s Haven for Children, The Angel Fund of Trinity High School, RISE Adventures, Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange, Food for the Soul, VAST (Valuable After School Time), Christian Community Storehouse, North Texas SNAP and Neuro Fitness. … The Texas Bar Foundation awarded the Tarrant County Bar Foundation a $5,000 grant for its Community Partners Initiative. The grant will let the foundation continue to develop partnerships with community organizations on behalf of two pro bono programs, Tarrant County Volunteer Attorney Services and Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans-Tarrant County Chapter.

Send nonprofit news to Betty Dillard at bdillard@bizpress.net

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