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Autism Cares Foundation brightens future for loved ones

by Debra Forman

The Autism Cares Foundation (ACF) recently celebrated the madcap Roaring ‘20s while raising awareness and funds to secure the best possible future for its loved ones with autism and other special needs.

More than 250 guests attended ACF CARES Gala; an elegant Gatsby-themed dinner-dance, live and silent auctions, that were capped off with heart-felt presentations.

The event was held at Spring Mill Manor on Saturday, April 27th, in Ivyland, Bucks County.

“When Linda and I decided to create Autism Cares Foundation there was a choice to be made that became a defining moment for our entire family,” Frank Kuepper, Co-Founder, explained. “We could have chosen to do nothing, pinning our hopes and dreams on someone else to deliver these life-enriching activities for this special group of people.”

All along, the mission has always been to provide these activities, but not to be just another agency, Frank said, “but to be one of the best, which is something we strive for every single day.”

“It takes a village to raise a child, but what does it take to raise a special needs child – a litany of therapy, medical care, and educational support? On behalf of ACF,” he added, “we want to thank you for choosing to support our organization.”

Master of Ceremonies, Jim Donovan, acknowledged that, “Frank and Linda have put their blood, sweat and tears into ACF, which is so important for this community.”

“I talk a lot … about positivity, inspiration, and people helping one another, and I also recently started expressing my views about angels. I think angels exist all around us,” Donovan explained.

“Sometimes they walk among us and they are the pioneers who set the world on fire, and you meet these people and go “Wow!” There are two angels in this room tonight, let us welcome them, Frank and Linda Kuepper.”

During the past year, ACF set a new attendance record with more than 5,000 people participating in nearly 200 annual events.

As the foundation has grown, so has the base of people needing support.

Children and adults with autism and other special needs, who previously may have experienced a void in their social lives, attend events in a safe and accepting environment.

These ongoing events include: physical fitness classes, sensory friendly movies, music, arts & crafts, bowling, swimming, holiday parties, Glee Club, and numerous other events, just like their typical peers. 

All of this is made possible through the generosity of sponsors and donors, who support the costs associated with each of these activities. Additionally, these 200 events are coordinated by a small number of staff members, which is why having the hundreds of dedicated volunteers is so critical to the foundation’s mission.

Linda Kuepper spoke about the ACF Prom, which took place on May 17th. “Most of our special needs friends never get to experience going to their high school prom,” she said.

“This year will be the ninth year that we have created a prom for them that is like no other,” she said, “with all the trimmings of a typical prom – dressy clothes, lovely hairstyles, corsages, dancing to the music of a DJ and a keepsake photo. It is certain to be a memorable event.”

The Gala was also an opportunity to thank many ACF supporters. 

Ronald T. Bernstein, the Executive Director of Foundation’s Community Partnership, (FCP), was the recipient of the 2019 CARES Award.

FCP, a philanthropic grant-making foundation that supports behavioral health of children and young adults in Bucks County, received a unique work of art created by self-taught artist Mitchell Bowyer, who is an adult with autism.

“I think this award and event are wonderful, and I am more than appreciative,” Ron said. “Linda and Frank do an incredible job with such an important program, and I am just happy to be a part of this.”

Also recognized at the ACF Cares Gala, the 2019 Community Partner Honorees, Schi Berk of Bloomin’ Brands and Paul Rokuskie of NEXT Generation Productions, Inc.

In addition to a range of programs for children and teens, ACF recognizes the growing demand for Adult Services for people over age 21.

Through its latest program, which has a waiting list, adults with autism and other special needs have somewhere meaningful to go after school has concluded for them.

They go on community outings, learn vital life skills and socialize with new friends.

This important program will continue to grow so that ACF may address the waiting list and provide for additional opportunities, such as job skills, job training, and supported employment that will enhance the self-worth of each of its special friends, and provide them with the best possible future.

For further information, contact www.autismcaresfoundation.org, or call 215-942-2273.

PHOTO CAP: From left, Frank Kuepper, CBS-3 News Anchor Jim Donovan and Linda Kuepper