In this post, Tim Welsh answers our questions about how he and his business partner, Larry Goldfarb, founded the organization AutismAid.
Can you provide some background on how you founded AutismAid? What was your inspiration?
Larry and I both have children with autism, working with different organizations dedicated to dealing with the needs of the autism community has been a natural for us. I had been an autism advocate for more than ten years after my son was diagnosed with autism as when he was four years old. I spent a great deal of my time working with various autism-focused organizations in my area and I turned to blogging and writing as my own form of therapy.
Through my writing and through my nonprofit work, I had access to so much information on building autism awareness. That was the focus of the majority of organizations I worked with: how to create awareness around this disorder. But what we realized was that as so many programs sought to build awareness, few, if any, worked to coordinate services. We founded AutismAid for this reason - to work with nonprofits to facilitate services for families impacted by autism. Our sons coupled with the pleas we've heard from those in-need in the community, served as all the inspiration we needed to continue our work.
Can you explain what AutismAid does and how it works?
We created AutismAid this year with the mission to serve as a facilitator for nonprofits nationwide and help provide services for families impacted by autism. We work to provide direct assistance to established regional autism service organizations and expand the reach and effectiveness of these partner groups. And, we aim to complement the efforts of these organizations by filling in any gaps in autism-related services.
How does AutismAid differ from other autism-focused organizations?
AutismAid's sole mission is service-oriented. Unlike organizations that work to build awareness, AutismAid strives to provide baseline autism services in communities across the country. We work to end discrimination for these services based on socioeconomic status, geographic location and ethnicity so all families can have access to the services they need.
What have been your greatest challenges and what have you done to overcome them?
Larry and I have spent years advocating for increased access to services in the autism community but have faced a range of obstacles, including lack of communication and cooperation. We hope to overcome this by avoiding competition with any organizations that share our mission and by reaching out to local communities with new media technology to spread the word of our work and services.
Undoubtedly, fundraising and sustainability also play a huge role in our future success and we aim to combat these challenges by reaching out to and working with those organizations that have a vested interest in helping families impacted by autism.
What has been the most fulfilling moment for you, or what would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?
For us, it has been being involved in helping various nonprofits around the country save lives. I can't express how much it means to know we are able to make such a difference. I have been personally told a number of times that a program, service or even a social media posting that I created has made a difference in a family's life, and that's a feeling I will have with me forever.
What is your inspiration to keep AutismAid going?
My main inspiration is knowing that families and service organizations can do so much with our help. I pray we can be a beacon of hope and support during very difficult and challenging times for families. It's that thought that keeps me going.
Why would you encourage people to become involved with AutismAid? How can they become involved?
Right now, AutismAid needs support from sponsorship, partnership and unity. You can become involved by helping us design our logo in our online contest and sharing the news we post on our facebook page.
Can you provide any anecdotes on how you've witnessed the impact of your efforts?
We are so grateful to have been able to do so much in such a short time. We've dedicated countless hours to counseling and support to provide hope for families dealing with autism. And, we have lent a hand to organizations like the Hope Institute of Illinois by helping fund their mobility van. We also worked with the Tommy Foundation to help fund the Autism Documentary Project "United States of Autism."
What is your vision for the future of AutismAid, do you have plans to add to organization or its focus in anyway?
Right now, our plan is focused on increasing access to services in the United States, but we see these needs worldwide. We have identified 40 areas of need at this point in the U.S. where we want to address critical life-saving needs first, and then move into the quality-of-life programs. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows a rise in the number of children identified as having an autism spectrum disorder, and we know we'll be busy during the foreseeable future trying to meet the needs of autism services in local communities across the country.