Annual event raises nearly $2.6 million to support Aspire, a program that helps children, teens and adults with high cognitive autism spectrum disorder or a related social profile develop the skills to live full, independent lives.

MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) kicked off National Autism Awareness Month by hosting the 18th annual Aspire Spring Gala on April 5, 2018.
MGHFC
Held at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston, the event raised nearly $2.6 million to support Aspire. The program helps children, teens and adults with high cognitive autism spectrum disorder or a related social profile develop the skills necessary to live full, independent lives.

Based at the Lurie Center for Autism, Aspire programs include a summer camp for children, an Excursions and Explorations group for teens and a young adult internship program. The program also consults with area schools and conducts professional development workshops. Those workshops train professionals and parents on meeting the complex needs of individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.

This year’s event theme, “Light Up! Inspiring Knowledge + Illuminating Confidence,” produced by longtime partner Rafanelli Events, shed light on living with autism.

Through an interactive lighting installation, lightbulb lounge and an animated video presentation entitled “Five Questions About Autism,” guests experienced “a-ha moments” about life on the autism spectrum. Boston’s Zakim Bridge was also lit up in blue to commemorate the special evening.

Nearly 850 Attend

Liliana and Ann Marie Gross visit an interactive lighting installation at the gala.
Liliana and Ann Marie Gross visit an interactive lighting installation at the gala.

Nearly 850 supporters attended the cocktail reception that featured dinner-by-the-bite and a luxury game with one-of-a-kind prize packages. They included tickets to a live taping of Dancing with the Stars in Hollywood and a meet-and-greet with band Def Leppard at Fenway Park.

The event was hosted by committee members Stephanie and David Long, Timothy Sweeney, Terry and Tom Hamilton, Ann Marie and Daniel Gross, and Kim and Eric Karofsky. This group has worked passionately towards shining a light on how Aspire helps those on the autism spectrum pursue careers and lead full lives.

Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of Massachusetts General Hospital; David Long, chairman and chief executive officer of Liberty Mutual Insurance and hospital trustee; and Tim Sweeney, president of Global Retail Markets at Liberty Mutual Insurance, thanked guests for their support. They also emphasized the importance of participating in the Aspire internship program, which offers young people on the autism spectrum real-life work experience.

Scott McLeod, PhD, executive director of Aspire, spoke alongside several participants from the Aspire program, including 13-year-old Sean Noonan. Sean told guests that Aspire was an experience that couldn’t be explained in words, and one that had given him the tools to make friends, be confident and relate to people. “Aspire gave me a chance to be the me that I want people to remember when they hear my name,” Sean said.

If your company would like to host an Aspire intern, please contact Leslie O’Brien at 781-860-1907 or lobrien@mgh.harvard.edu.