Why I Decided to Pay It Forward in the Autism Community
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
This week my nonprofit organization announced that we were giving out six scholarships for college to adults with autism. When I originally started reading the student applications last year to choose the winners I was overwhelmed with excitement. This was one of the best applicant classes we’ve ever had. I was truly impressed with everyone’s backgrounds and the bright young adults we have out there in our autism community.
With their wins we’ve now been able to give out 13 scholarships in the past three years. As an adult on the spectrum, I look back and wish I had the opportunity to have more autism scholarships like this to apply for when I was in college. As the pool of applicants increases I feel blessed to see how far the reach of this scholarship is.
Everyone who I work with has been on cloud nine with the announcement. With all of this though, I’ve been thinking more and more about the thought of giving and “paying it forward” going into 2015.
When my new book, “Autism and Falling in Love,” came out, I kept this mentality by donating 50 percent of the proceeds to Autism Speaks and 50 percent of the proceeds to Best Buddies. I’ve always been passionate about autism awareness and the woman I dedicated my book to had a passion for Best Buddies.
The first time I heard about Best Buddies was in 2014 when I went to a speaking event at The College of New Jersey where they had their own chapter. Several of their members were in the audience for my presentation and it was truly amazing to hear their stories afterwards. This was my favorite speaking event I had in 2014. There was also someone who made a lasting impact in my life that came to the event.
When I started to read more about Best Buddies while writing the book I became instantly hooked on their mission. When I was in high school I was a photographer for Special Olympics New Jersey. To this day I still mentor a young girl who’s involved with that organization. Knowing that Best Buddies helps adults with disabilities, a similar mission to Special Olympics, is something I truly admired.
So in return I want to do something to help their chapter. I have decided to give my speakers fee from my appearance at The College of New Jersey to Best Buddies to help sponsor their chapter and expand their future opportunities. The relationships I made with those in the group were something special and I thought about all the good that it could do for them.
More importantly, I thought about all the hardships I had gone through in the past year and thought to myself how this could help some truly amazing individuals. When we started a dialogue with their club they told me they were doing several fundraisers to raise money and that sealed it for me.
Philanthropy has always been an important part of my life. Ever since high school I’ve been involved with volunteering and fundraising for non-profits to try to give back. Today, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel the country as a national speaker discussing how I’ve been able to overcome countless obstacles with autism.
By giving my fee for this speaking event to their group, I hope I can continue to pay it forward for more philanthropy. My goal now is at the end of each year to give one of my speaker checks to a different non-profit/organization that could truly use it.
Now, for those reading this, I hope you consider ways you can “pay it forward” to others in 2015. I know with our economy how tight money can be at times however anything you can give from your money or your time could make a world of difference in the lives of others. I went from having very little as a kid to now having more and more of my dreams coming true everyday. Last year I also realized how fast some of the things in your life can be snatched away from you. That’s why I don’t want to waste another minute not giving back and showing the people I care for how much I love them.
I hope all of you out there will try to do the same. If you need help on how to get started I’m just a message away from my Mighty author page.
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” –Dr. Seuss
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