The Fraser Valley spoke of the Pacific Autism Family Network received a cheque for $100,000 Friday (Oct. 14).
The money was raised by Saccomaniacs Agriculture for Autism (Ag4Autism). The 14th annual golf tournament was held Aug. 15 at Coquitlam’s Westwood Plateau Golf and Country Club. The Saccomanics Sturgeon Fishing Derb was held Aug. 12 on the Fraser River, and with online auction proceeds added in, Ag4Autism was able to present a tidy sum to PAFN Fraser Valley manager Hannah Vannery.
“We serve over 150 families, including the programs we run and the people who drop in on a daily basis to ask us questions,” she said. “I’m so excited to receive this funding to help us help those people.”
Vannery said many children with autism have sensory issues, and PAFN buys items that are kept at the centre (46151 Yale Road) to help with that.
“From sound-proof headphones for children with auditory sensitivity, to our yogibo beanbags that we have scattered around the center, these things benefit individuals who need deep pressure when overstimulated,” Vannery explained. “We will use the money for better video games for my teens social group and Neurovaliant connections group.
“And this money allows us to do outings, go bowling, moms night out, etc.”
Saccomanians founder Steve Saccomano called it “so rewarding” being able to present the proceeds.
“When you come here and you see children who are comfortable with the programs that are offered, and you see parents who can breathe a sigh of relief because there are services to use, it’s a dream come true,” he said.
Families like the Mummery clan. Derick Mummery is father to two teenagers on the spectrum, 13-year-old Chloe and 14-year-old Logan. Finding programs that work for older children can be difficult, but PAFN has something for all ages, from tots to teens and young adults.
Mummery said the wealth of knowledge and acceptance within the PAFN walls is invaluable.
“The friendships that the children make, and the support that they have, it’s so comforting,” he said. “When you’re a new parent looking at things, you’re wide-eyed and afraid, and this place is such a good thing. I am eternally grateful, and the people who contribute to Saccomanics by donating their time or donating money have my profound thanks.”
Saccomano hears from many people like Mummery who access PAFN services in the Fraser Valley, and they are all thankful and glad it exists.
Over 1,000 local companies support Ag4Autism.
“And whenever someone says thank you, I remind them that it’s not me,” Saccomano said. “It’s the AG community. It’s the sponsors and supporters and the entire team behind us. Given what our agricultural community has gone through the last couple years, they still answer the bell every year, and we are still adding sponsors every year.”
Saccomano said there’s still work to do putting into place everything the autism community needs, and planning is already underway for the 2023 Saccomaniacs events.
The golf tournament will be back at Westwood Plateau Aug. 14, 2023, and the fishing derby will take place Aug. 11, 2023.
“More awareness. More one-on-one availability and more funding for families with children on the spectrum,” Saccomano said of the long term vision. “Those are some of the things that are still lacking that we need.”
Saccomaniacs Ag4Autism has raised over $700,000 cash and over $250,000 in kind since 2014.