Autism Speaks’ "Coaches Powering Forward for Autism" Teams Up with NCAA Basketball Coaches and Fans

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Campaign to raise awareness and funds for autism research, family services and advocacy

Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced its college basketball campaign, Coaches Powering Forward for Autism, will take place during the weekend of February 19 – 21, 2016. Entering its third season, and spearheaded by NCAA basketball coaches Pat Skerry and Tom Herrion, Coaches Powering Forward for Autism provides coaches, their teams, athletic staff, schools and fans with opportunities to raise awareness, fundraise and advocate for the needs of people affected by autism.

Coaches Powering Forward for Autism is a unique opportunity for the NCAA basketball community and fans to rally around their favorite team while raising funds and awareness for a good cause. Throughout the weekend, coaches along with fans, broadcasters and supporters will don the blue Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin during college basketball games.

Anyone can participate in Coaches Powering Forward for Autism by joining their favorite coach or school’s fundraising team during the NCAA basketball season at http://www.autismspeaks.org/coaches. Participants are encouraged to enlist others to join the campaign, with the goal of each team raising $6,800 – a figure symbolic of the 1 in 68 children on the autism spectrum. The funds will go towards Autism Speaks’ research, family services and advocacy efforts on behalf of the autism community.

Participants can also raise awareness and fundraise on campus and at games throughout the weekend. Possibilities include hosting a table during the awareness game and working with your Athletic Department to plan a halftime program that includes a fundraising activity benefiting Autism Speaks. Additional ideas are available at http://www.autismspeaks.org/coaches.

Coaches Powering Forward for Autism was created in 2014 after Pat Skerry and Tom Herrion embarked on a mission to raise awareness of autism. Inspired by their sons, both diagnosed with autism, they made a simple request to fellow coaches: Wear the Autism Speaks blue puzzle piece pin during televised games the first weekend of February that year. In an overwhelming response, more than 82 NCAA coaches and broadcasters took to the sidelines and airwaves throughout the weekend wearing the pin. In 2015, the support soared with close to 250 coaches and their staffs wearing the pins and more than 60 schools participating in the fund raising campaign. The goal for 2016 is to include the remaining Division I programs, along with programs in other divisions.

“Pat and Tom are advocates in every sense of the word. The campaign is a true grassroots effort, and it continues to grow under the Coaches Powering Forward for Autism banner with far more coaches, fans and broadcasters engaged,” said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks. “In addition, Pat and Tom have become great ambassadors for Autism Speaks by attending events across the country that demonstrate the importance of participation and volunteerism.”

“I am very excited how quickly the event has grown from when I started it as an on-campus event in conjunction with one of our games,” said Pat Skerry, head coach of the Towson University men’s basketball team. “Having the backing of Autism Speaks and partnering with our coaching brethren will bring more exposure and awareness to such an important cause that is dear to both Tom and me.”

“We are tremendously excited about the growth of our program and the incredible momentum it has gained in helping to create even greater awareness and support for autism and its effects on so many individuals,” added Tom Herrion, an assistant coach for Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team. “The support from our coaching fraternity has been overwhelming, and we appreciate their efforts in our continued development of Coaches Powering Forward for Autism.”

Supporting Skerry and Herrion in Coaches Powering Forward for Autism is a group that includes some of the top names in college basketball: ESPN Basketball Analysts Jay Bilas and Seth Greenberg; former UConn Men’s Basketball Coach and Naismith Hall of Fame Inductee Jim Calhoun.

“I am excited to be part of Coaches Powering Forward for Autism again this season,” said Jay Bilas. “It’s important to draw as much attention to autism as possible. Working with Tom, Pat and Autism Speaks on Coaches Powering Forward for Autism does this and will help improve the lives of those with autism.”

“I first became involved with Autism Speaks when one of my grandchildren was diagnosed. I was impressed with the work that Autism Speaks was doing and quickly realized the importance of wearing the puzzle piece pin on the sidelines,” said Jim Calhoun. “It serves a couple of purposes, including creating much needed awareness while getting more people involved. Coaches Powering Forward for Autism will enable the college coaching community to use their visibility to help all of us make the lives of those with autism a little better.”

About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $570 million to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 70 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit http://www.autismspeaks.org.

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C.J. Volpe
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