I recently had the opportunity to sit and chat with Dave Forman ’13 and Gabrielle Fernandez ’13, the Marketing Co-chairs and respective Director of Outreach and Treasurer of Cornell’s chapter of Autism Speaks U. We discussed the organization, its role on campus, and its really cool upcoming event: the Dance Now for Autism Speaks U Dance-a-thon!

Autism Speaks is the largest autism advocacy non-profit in the world. Founded in 2005, the organization strives to increase autism awareness and outreach and to raise funds for research on the various forms of autism. Cynthia Vella ’13, who is currently serving as the club’s president, founded the Cornell Chapter of Autism Speaks U in January of this year, making Cornell the only Ivy League institution that houses a chapter of this organization.

Cornell’s chapter of Autism Speaks U will be holding a very fun and creative fundraising event this Saturday, October 22nd called Dance Now for Autism Speaks U. Inspired by the hugely successful yearly fundraiser at Penn State called THON (which raises money to combat childhood cancer), the group decided that a dance-a-thon would be a great way to get people engaged in the mission of Autism Speaks. Aside from raising money to support the cause, the organization hopes that this event will help them become known on campus, increase membership, and increase support from other on-campus clubs, as well as the Ithaca community.

Vella was said to have started Autism Speaks U on campus because a family member of hers has a form of autism. The issue also hits close to home for Dave Forman, whose brother is autistic, as well. Forman and Fernandez stated that a large part of why Autism Speaks is an important and worthwhile cause is because it touches so many people’s lives. Autism is a disorder that affects tens of millions of people worldwide and nearly 2 million people in the U.S., alone. In its six years of existence, Autism Speaks has raised millions of dollars toward autism research and providing financial assistance to families affected by autism.

So, if you love dancing and would like to help support a worthwhile cause while getting your groove on, I suggest participating in the Dance Now for Autism Speaks U Dance-a-thon! It will be taking place this Saturday night, October 22nd, at Noyse Recreational Center on West Campus from 6pm-12am. Tickets go for $10 and can be bought HERE.

For more information on autism and Autism Speaks, please visit the Autism Speaks website: www.autismspeaks.org