The super moon rose to the east as Southwest Riverside residents gathered to support the Oak Grove Center Saturday night.
All funds raised from the annual Evening Under the Oaks event will go towards in-process construction for the gym and multipurpose building for special needs students managed by the Murrieta Development Company.
“The gym has temporary siding on it now, and suddenly looks like a real building,” Oak Grove Center CEO Tammy Wilson said.
The structure, located at the base of the autism classrooms added after last year’s fundraiser, is a testament to the commitment that Wilson, and all who love Oak Grove Center for Education Treatment and the Arts have demonstrated.
The large gym and multipurpose room will serve as both an exercise and gathering hub for students and staff during the hot summer months and inclement weather.
“Many of our students are on special medication, and when it’s over 85 degrees, they can’t be outside. This indoor play space will also provide (a place for) parent training, a one-way mirror for observation, a music room, and individual spaces for our autistic students,” Wilson said.
Roughly 380 attendees and participants were present for the night, and took part in the silent and live auctions.
Kat Bailey, acting auctioneer, discussed her role in upping the ante for the fundraising: “Two years ago we built three autism classrooms. By the time this evening is over, we will have auctioned off 400 planks of hardwood floor, raising ten-thousand dollars for the flooring of the gym” Bailey said.
Students and staff lined the stage and performed a specially written song, “My Own Sunshine,” written by staff member Lee Nelson in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
Rounding out the evening were local favorites the Brewer Boys – Justin and Nathan — who performed to help raise funds for Oak Grove gym.
By the end of the evening, the crowd blinked and glittered with golden opportunity ticket medallions, each one funding a child’s autism camp when school is out. All purchasers were entered in a raffle for the grand auction items.
Sponsors of the event made this event possible included the Der Manouel Insurance Group, Pechanga Resort and Casino, Lexus of Riverside, Pacific Western Bank, South Coast Winery, Gentry Studio, Millgard Windows, Rustico, Ponte, Vs. Foods, and many others.
Parents had the opportunity to share what Oak Grove means to them in a video presentation, where the theme was clear: The kids are in a safe place. They are liked. They are well attended to. They are learning to understand themselves, and to self monitor.
Tammy Wilson said: “I didn’t know how special our autism kids would be. They are phenomenal. The kids make such an impact on our staff.”
For more information on Oak Grove, visit the web page at www.oakgrovecenter.org.
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.