Step Up for Autism celebration a success
Beautiful weather and an exciting finish to the sweets auction were the highlights of the seventh annual Step Up for Autism celebration.
The event took place September 24 on the grounds of The Resource Center’s Administrative Offices at 200 Dunham Avenue in Celoron. Step Up for Autism is an opportunity for the community to show support for people on the autism spectrum, and their families.
People began to arrive at about 8:30 to register for the 1.5-mile fun walk, check out the Chinese auction items and information tables, or engage in some of the fun things going on outside, such as the bounce houses and face painting. At about 9:30, a small contingent of motorcyclists headed off on the Loop the Lake dice run.
Opening ceremonies began at about 10:15. Remarks were given by Jacqueline Phelps, representing Congressman Tom Reed; Lisa Vanstrom, representing Senator Cathy Young; Assemblyman Andy Goodell; and County Executive Vince Horrigan. (Governor Cuomo was unable to have a representative attend the event, but he sent organizers a congratulatory letter.) Julie McCarthy, a member of The Resource Center’s Board of Directors, and her son Andrew Lockwood also addressed the crowd and thanked them for participating. Julie and Andrew helped start Step Up for Autism in 2010 and have taken part in the event every year.
Steve Waterson, Community Relations Director, announced that several families had created online fund-raising pages and raised a total of more than $9,000. He singled out Team Mason (which raised $4,036), Team Sirianno ($3,895) and Team Bring it for Bradley ($1,012) for their success in raising money to support Step Up for Autism.
It’s not too late to donate to someone’s fund-raising page! Click here to make a donation.
After John Graham, who receives supports from TRC, gave a stirring rendition of the national anthem, people moved to the end of the parking lot and gathered behind a balloon arch for a group photo. Then, with vehicles from the Celoron Fire Department leading the way, walkers proceeded to Lucille Ball Memorial Park on the shores of Chautauqua Lake before heading back to The Resource Center. After completing the walk or the motorcycle run, people enjoyed a hot dog lunch, bought tickets for the Chinese auction and waited for the sweets auction to begin.
There were about 30 items up for bid in the sweets auction – cakes, pies, cupcakes, and cookies donated by area businesses and community members. Many of the cakes were decorated with an autism theme. The bidding was brisk, with the various items going for $15 to $70. With one cake left to auction off, $1,078 had been raised.
The last cake (created by Cheryl Pokoj of Dunkirk and her daughter, Aimee Metzger) resembled fall leaves in a basket. Cheryl and Aimee are known for their creative cakes and have donated several to Step Up for Autism over the years.
For the final cake, auctioneer Marcos Figueroa, Assistant Residence Manager at one of TRC’s homes, got the bidding started. Once the bidding got to about $50, he turned the auctioneering duties over to Mark Goshgarian of Time Warner Cable News/Spectrum News. Mark got the bidding to about $80, then turned the microphone over to Steve Waterson, Community Relations Director. In past years, the final two bidders for the last cake have been Heather C. Brown, TRC’s Assistant Executive Director for Program Operations, and Don Steward, who has a grandson on the autism spectrum. Steve zeroed in on Heather and Don and coaxed them into raising the top bid to $100. Steve then handed off the auctioneering duties to Marcos, and that’s when things got wonderfully interesting.
Marcos, a natural showman, bounced between Heather and Don, increasing the top bid by $5 each time. After a while, Marcos persuaded someone sitting near Heather to toss in a few dollars of their own so that Heather could raise her bid. Marcos then got people to throw in money to supplement Don’s bid. And back and forth it went, with people making their way across the room to contribute money to Heather and Don. The bidding on the cake went past $200, slowed down for a while, and then picked up steam again. People gasped and applauded as the bids continued to rise. Finally, when the bidding surpassed $300, Marcos suggested the cake be split between Heather and Don and that all of the money be donated to Step Up for Autism. And just like that, Cheryl and Aimee’s cake had brought in $600.
Major sponsors of this year’s Step Up for Autism were Applebee’s, AXA Advisors, Bounce Chautauqua, Brown & Brown Insurance, Falconer Printing & Design, Five Star Bank, Jamestown Community College, Monarch Center for Autism, Regal Service Company, Saxton Kocur and Associates, Shults Auto Group, Support Enterprises, and Taco Hut.
All of the money raised through Step Up for Autism goes to Filling the Gap, Inc., which works with The Resource Center and TRC Foundation to improve the lives of people with autism and other developmental disabilities.
We thank everyone who helped make the 2016 Step Up for Autism celebration a success, and we hope to see you next year for the eighth annual event!