Light It Up Blue Fundraiser at Festival Foods Spreads Awareness About Autism

Marshfield, WI (Explore) Festival Foods stores across Wisconsin are supporting Autism Awareness Month this April through Light It Up Blue flower bouquets.

For every bouquet sold, $2 is donated to Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization which provides information and funding for research. Flowers are available in early April near the bakery department as supplies last.

Joe Neville, Bakery Manager at Festival Foods, became passionate about the cause after his grandson Hunter, 5, was diagnosed when he was 2 years-old.

“What people fail to realize is 70 million worldwide are affected with autism. It’s just staggering,” said Neville. “1 in 37 boys are diagnosed, and 1 in 151 girls.”

The goal of the campaign is less about funds and more about raising awareness of autism and its challenges. It’s estimated that autism costs a family $60,000 a year, factoring in costs for special services and lost wages from the demands placed on parents.

Autistic children may have needs that require solutions above a family’s budget. If an autistic child often bolts or wanders from safety, as half are estimated to do, a family may need to put precautions in place, like a fence. Fortunately, there are programs that help defer some of the costs for families.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), affects 1 in 59 children in the U.S who are usually diagnosed around age 2 or 3. Though symptoms can be disabling, in other cases children grow up to have fulfilling, independent lives.

“Autism affects people differently,” said Neville. “Sometimes you can’t even tell.”

Famous people who are believed to be on the autism spectrum include Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Gates and Courtney Love. Historic figures theorized to have had autism in some form include Thomas Jefferson, Sir Isaac Newton, and Einstein.

For next year’s Light It Up Blue campaign, Neville would like to take the campaign to the next level by offering blue cookies, similar to the pink cookies sold for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Proceeds could benefit local groups which address autism.