The Our Nicholas Foundation — an organization devoted to raising awareness and funds for autistic children — invited all to share its message of hope at the 7th Annual Auction for Autism on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012.
Over 300 attendees and 50 volunteers attended the event.
“This is a community effort, and we could not have done what we were up against without the help of so many sponsors,” said Mark Anselmo, Our Nicholas Foundation co-founder, thanking Sierra Pacific Farms, Paradise Autos, Pacific Western Bank, Abbott, and Leoness Cellars.
Hosted at Rancho Bellasante Estate in the mountains of De Luz, the evening began in the courtyards at silent auction tables.
Guests enjoyed wine from Leoness Cellars and Speranza Winery (ONF’s own vineyard—Speranza means “hope” in Italian), as the event served up Italian delicacies from Vineyard Gourmet Catering, finishing with desserts by Sweet Layers Bakery.
In an evening ripe with emotion, support, and friendship, Our Nicholas Foundation highlighted how funds aid special needs classrooms, sporting events, and community awareness.
“One in 88 children has autism,” Anselmo said during his address to the post-dinner audience. “It is the fastest growing disorder in the world. And every dollar raised by ONF stays in our community.”
According to statistics collected by the organization, over 800 families in the Temecula/Murrieta areas are affected with autism and the divorce rate among parents remains a staggering 83 percent.
In a video prepared for the event, outspoken parents described their experiences with learning about their children’s autism, and how Our Nicholas Foundation has changed their lives.
Temecula mother Courtney Holton said of the foundation: “Maybe it’s the perfect mix of people; maybe we just got really lucky. But I’m not going to let go, I’m holding on for dear life.”
With an eye on the future, Anselmo said greater projects are on the horizon, including a puzzle piece at the Temecula Public Library, a Christmas event including snow, Santa, and family picture opportunities, as well as sports offerings like Kick with Nick (soccer), Chip with Nick (golf), and Swim with Nick.
“There are splinters of these programs that we never expected,” he said, noting the new Shooting Stars (basketball) program, headed by Temecula Community Recreation Center Supervisor Jeff Lawrence.
Beyond sports, Our Nicholas Foundation also raises money towards Apples for Autism to supply iPad minis to autistic children to improve speech therapy with the multiple autism-related apps.
Anselmo said: “Acceptance and awareness is worth more than any check you could ever write. We are grateful for the support of the community and as the autistic population continues to grow, it means even more to maintain our programs and continue to build awareness and understanding.”
The next Our Nicholas Foundation fundraising event is planned for Oct. 20 in Old Town Temecula.
To learn more, visit www.ournicholasfoundation.org.
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.