With Light It Up Blue campaigns and media coverage on autism-related research, dialogue has begun, helping shed light on the neurological disorder that effects one in 68 children, yet touches everyone. Still, awareness is only the beginning path to a society of tolerance and acceptance. And it will take an entire community to reach that goal by breaking down borders for families who walk the journey.
Jason and Cristine Rhodes, founders of The Inspire Foundation, 17815 Hunting Bow Cir. in Lutz, know this. The couple’s son, Jacob, has an autism spectrum disorder, ASD, that inspired their work with music and autism. Now they are reaching even higher, bonding the Hernando County community for the second year as the organizing force behind the 5th Hernando County Autism Fest at Springstead High School on Saturday, June 25, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This year’s Autism Fest is being presented by Terlep Chiropractic.
The annual event was originally incepted as part of a high school project that strived to bring an autism awareness event to Hernando County. Organized through high school students, it remained small and intimate. But the founder, Danish Hassan, had envisioned something bigger that might hopefully attract a large organization or substantial financial backing to help the festival grow.
The Rhodes were that lifeline, stepping in to help organize the event last year that tripled in size. This year, it promises to be even bigger.
They are quick to stress that the event is geared for everyone, with or without a disability. While they hope autism families will come out and show support for a cause that will benefit them, they also want to reach as many as possible with the message that it is a fun-filled family day for everyone!
More than 70 vendors, food, live entertainment, games, activities, freebies and more will keep the projected 600+ guests entertained.
But there’s more! James Durbin, known for his participation on American Idle’s 10th season is scheduled to perform.
“It is a large investment to cover his fees, travel and lodging to get him to this event,” Jason said. But the effort is worth it since Durbin is an inspiration to the autism community. Aspergers Syndrome, now referred to as high functioning autism, didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams. Admittance into the James Durbin concert is free. However, VIP tickets are available for just $15 where fans can have a personal meet and greet. Tickets are available online.
Proceeds from the Autism Fest benefit local summer camps and music scholarships for children with disabilities. Like last year, the proceeds will go to the YMCA’s Camp Coast and The Inspire Foundation.
“We wanted to be able to add a second week to the YMCA camp, and with the funds raised last year, we were not only able to do that, but were also able to add swimming lessons for the campers,” Jason said. “Between the YMCA’s summer camps (approximately 30 kids) and our foundation’s scholarships (around 36 kids, and 2 that had music lessons for 1 year) we were able to make a great impact in the lives of many, including their siblings and parents.”
The event is free but you do need a ticket to enter. They are available online at: autismfesthernandocounty.eventbrite.com. VIP meet and greet tickets for James Durbin are available on the Inspire Foundation website at theinspirefoundationfl.org.
For more information, including vendor availability, vendor lists, and schedules, visit theinspirefoundationfl.org.