The annual Aspire Spring Gala supports a program that equips those with high cognitive autism spectrum disorder with the knowledge and skills to lead more successful and fulfilling lives.

On March 31, 2016, MassGeneral Hospital for Children celebrated the 16th annual Aspire Spring Gala, which raises funds and awareness for the Aspire program. The event raised more than $2.6 million to support the program, which equips children, teens and adults with high cognitive autism spectrum disorder with the knowledge and skills to lead successful and fulfilling lives.
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While Boston’s Zakim Bridge shone in blue to commemorate the event and promote autism awareness, more than 800 guests enjoyed the Rafanelli Events-designed cocktail reception at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston. The Berkshire Hills Music Academy Performance Troupe provided music.

This year’s gala highlighted programs that provide young people on the autism spectrum with the tools to form lasting and meaningful relationships. They include the Internship Program, which places participants at Boston-based businesses to gain on-the-job skills.

Aspire Participants as Emcees

Four participants acted as emcees and introduced the evening’s speakers. Those speakers included event co-chairs David Long, chairman and chief executive officer of Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Tim Sweeney, president of Personal Insurance at Liberty Mutual. Also speaking were Jake Peters, a former Aspire intern and current Enterprise employee, and Brett Mulder, PsyD, program manager for Teen and Adult Services.

“The gala itself is always a big moment for Aspire,” Scott McLeod, PhD, Aspire’s executive director, told guests. “But this big moment is a celebration of thousands of little moments. Those moments when we see a smile. A nod. A look of recognition, a connection that’s made, a relationship that’s started. These are the small victories that collectively form the true essence and the true meaning of Aspire.”

The event’s Visionary Sponsor made an anonymous contribution of $250,000. Safelite AutoGlass served as the Pioneering Sponsor, with a $120,000 donation. Philanthropic support enables Aspire to expand its programs and, most importantly, provide services for young people and families regardless of their ability to pay.

Keys to Singular Experiences

Event attendees played a luxury key game that unlocked one-of-a-kind experiences such as a trip to the 9th Annual David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic in the Dominican Republic and tickets to Adele and Beyonce’s upcoming Boston concerts.

The Aspire Committee includes event co-chairs Stephanie and David Long, Tim Sweeney, and Terry and Tom Hamilton as well as members Ann Marie and Daniel Gross, Kim and Eric Karofsky, and Shonda and Curt Schilling. Together they have worked passionately towards shining a light on how Aspire helps young people with high cognitive autism spectrum disorders reach their full potential.

If your company is interested in hosting an Aspire intern, please contact Leslie O’Brien at 781-860-1907 or lobrien@mgh.harvard.edu.

Aspire celebrants pictured in top photo are, from left, Leslie O’Brien, Internship Program manager; Scott McLeod, PhD, executive director; intern emcees Jake Peters, Henry Marks, Dan Peters, Jesse Mulkey, Emily Schulman, Will Henry; and Brett Mulder, PsyD, program manager for Teen and Adult Services.