Autism on the Seas “I Need a Special Vacation” Essay Contest Opens to Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi Families with Special Needs

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Contest Sponsor, Skyeward Bound Ranch, to award winner and their autism advocacy group of choice a special needs vacation with Autism on the Seas. Skyeward Bound Ranch Grant Program makes special needs cruise & land resort vacations with Autism on the Seas available to financially strapped families.

"I Need a Special Vacation" Essay Contest

"I Need a Special Vacation" Essay Contest

What’s really wonderful about this whole campaign is the fact that we now have a growing list of terrific deserving families that we may be able to grant Autism on the Seas vacations to -- Dalace-Skye Duvall

Autism on the Seas (AotS), a niche travel company catering to vacationing families with special needs, and Skyeward Bound Ranch (SBR), a non-profit charity dedicated to providing social and recreational interaction for specially challenged youth, jointly announced today the tri-state kickoff of the “I Need a Special Vacation” Essay Contest in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. The essay winner, as well as the winner’s non-profit autism support group of choice each receive a special needs cruise or land resort vacation with AotS.

“Now entering our third regional contest market, we are all pumped up on the joy and excitement this initiative has created,” says Dalace-Skye Duvall, Founder and President of Skyeward Bound Ranch. What’s really wonderful about this whole campaign is the fact that we now have a growing list of terrific deserving families that we may be able to grant Autism on the Seas vacations to.”

“We want to congratulate our recent Florida region winner, Candy Rhodes, and her family. Rhodes selected the Peace By Piece Learning Center in Fort Myers as her non-profit autism advocacy group of choice to receive a cruise donation,” says Mike Sobbell, founder and owner of Autism on the Seas. We’re excited and hope that this gift will help them to raise funds for their organization.”

The unique partnership with Skyeward Bound Ranch has made it possible to offer the Autism community a chance to win a special needs vacation or receive a grant that will enable them to take a real vacation with Autism on the Seas and other like families, in an environment that is comfortable, accommodating, accepting and fun!”

“I Need a Special Vacation” Essay Contest Kicks Off in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi

Over the next year, AotS will run in-market contests with participating local autism advocacy groups, as well as local chapters of national organizations, such as Autism Speaks and the National Autism Association. Families interested in entering the contest will be asked to write a 250-word essay on why they need a special vacation.

The winner will receive a paid cruise or land resort vacation with AotS. Additionally, the non-profit autism advocacy organization named on the entry form by the winner will also receive a cruise. The organization may use the cruise to raise funds or however they wish. Runner-up prizes will also be included.

Contest rules and submission deadlines will be listed on the AotS website, As the promotion is rolled out in each market, AotS will make announcements and post updates to their website. AotS is accepting entries from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi contestants starting on July 26th. The submission deadline is August 22nd; winning family and organization will be selected and notified by August 31st, 2012.

Esteemed Panel of Contest Judges

  •     Dr. Stephen Shore, Assistant Professor, Special Education at Adelphi University,

Author of “Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome,” “Ask and Tell: Self-Advocacy and Disclosure for people on the Autism Spectrum” and Coauthor, “Understanding Autism for Dummies”

  •     Kim Stagliano, Managing Editor of, is the author of “All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa” and “House of Cards,” writes for The Autism File and The Huffington Post
  •     Todd Tyler, Vice President of Marketing, DynaVox Technologies, the world leader in communication and education solutions for the disabled.
  •     Samir Patel, President of OxyHealth, LLC (, the leading manufacturer of safe, medical grade, portable hyperbaric chambers for clinical and personal use

Grant Program - Open for ALL Special Needs Families
The SBR Grant Program is a program designed to financially assist families wishing to vacation with Autism on the Seas Cruises and Resort Stays who meet criteria set forth by Skyeward Bound Ranch. The grants may be awarded in any amount up to the full vacation cost for a family, minus the deposit*.

A Request Form for SBR Grant applications can be found on the AotS website. Completed grant applications are screened and submitted for review to a five-person panel to determine each candidate's eligibility by Skyeward Bound Ranch.

Qualifying applicants will be notified of their Grant status within 30 business days of the date the completed application is received by Skyeward Bound Ranch.

Check out the AotS or the SBR website for other financial assistance programs, such as the Gift Card Program, to assist families currently booked on an Autism on the Seas Cruise or Resort Stay with Staff.

About Autism on the Seas
Founded in 2006, Autism on the Seas (AotS) is the flagship division of Special Needs on Vacation, LLC. AotS is a niche travel company that organizes and staffs cruise and land resort vacations for families with special needs. Our specially trained compassionate staffers provide care, attention and fun, as appropriate, to our special needs vacationers’ condition, comfort-level and ability. Our staff is accustomed to working with special needs passengers with a broad range of conditions, including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other cognitive and intellectual developmental impairments.

AotS has a close-knit fan-base on Facebook and they love to hear success stories from families who have traveled with them – or are planning to! Catch us on Facebook at and on Twitter @AutismontheSeas.

Skyeward Bound Ranch is a Non-Profit, Tax Exempt 501(c)3 Charitable Organization dedicated to providing social and recreational interaction of specially challenged youth. Your support contributes significantly to our efforts to continue building an educational and entertaining program of the highest quality and national distinction with established and successful youth camps around the state of Texas. You are also serving as a standard of committed civic responsibility inspiring others to support important causes as well. Website:

*All families applying for financial assistance under the Skyeward Bound Ranch Grant Program are required to place their own deposit to secure their cruise/resort stay, upon being notified by Skyeward Bound Ranch that they have been awarded a grant. Vacation deposits usually range from $200.00 to $500.00 per cabin/room based the length of the cruise or resort stay.

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Lisa Kaslyn
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