On August 27, 2012, ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today), a national non-profit organization whose mission is to provide care and treatment to children with autism, held its 6th Annual Charity Golf Classic event. On this occasion, the event focused its attention on the unique needs of military families living with autism and access to urgently needed treatment and support services.
The event took place at the North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village and it paraded an exclusive group of dedicated celebrities, all sharing their stardom power to raise awareness as well as funds for the cause, including multiple award-winning singer Brian McKnight, the event’s host, actor Joe Mantegna (“Criminal Minds”), major league all-star pitcher Eddie Guardado (who also partners with ACT with his own foundation), actor Jason Gedrick (“Dexter” and “Luck”), actor Kevin Surbo (“Hercules”), actor Robert Costanzo (“Castle”), actor DB Sweeney (“Castle”), actor Geoff Pierson (“Boardwalk Empire”), world–renowned autism expert Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh and ACT Today! Executive Director Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson.
Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson welcomed the press along the red carpet as she introduced the event’s host Joe Mantegna, Eddie Guardado and Brian McKnight to name a few. She described how all these influential celebrities along with several members of the armed services who have children with autism joined this year’s golf tournament.
In a side note, Nancy mentioned how she cast Brian McKnight to perform for a future event, even if it was just one song. To her surprise, Brian answered, “I don’t do one song.” After a pause, he offered to do a medley of songs, bringing Nancy’s smile back to her face.
After some introductions, Brian and Nancy were kind enough to answer a few questions and here is what they had to say:
Q: How long how you been involved and do you have any loved ones directly impacted by Autism?
Brian: This is my first introduction to the cause joining ACT Today! However, I have friends that have autistic children and I feel it is a worthwhile cause to support.
Q: How do you plan to use your influence to contribute to the cause?
Brian: Being here today and using my influence as a singer and communicator, it’s the start of various art forms in which I can contribute, simply acknowledging the need for these services is a great start.
Nancy spent a bit more time with us and gave us a broad picture as to how she joined ACT Today, and how military families could benefit from the program.
Q: When did you join ACT Today? Why did you have an interest for autism?
A: I joined ACT Today shortly after it was founded by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, who is a pre-eminent expert in autism care today. She decided with a group of concerned parents to put together an organization that will deliver direct treatment and care. Being a mother of an autistic child myself who had been recently diagnosed, I was looking for those alternatives as well. I offered Dr. Doreen to start a little fundraiser called Denim and Diamonds for autism and it raised thousand of dollars towards direct care. I was then asked to be part of the board and, though I worked in television before, I discovered my call and passion as a fundraiser, and so I became the executive director of ACT Today about five years ago.
Q: How is your child today?
A: He is doing very well! He has gone from moderate autism to extremely high functioning because of intensive therapy he is able to receive. Seeing my own child do so well is what inspires me to create fundraisers as a way to give back. There are so many families that benefit from events like the one today through behavior therapy, occupational therapy, socialization therapy and many more services. A family without access to therapies may have no for hope for their children.
Q: ACT Today has created several program subdivisions, did you found the fund for military families and why?
A: Yes. ATMF is one of the several ACT Today programs. Military families tend to move every two years and their children have a hard time adapting to change. I also found out how expensive therapies cost and how military families have difficulties accessing services as they move constantly. Insurance does not cover their required amount of behavior therapy, so as I heard about all this, I realized there was a real need to help. Next to a marine wife and mother as well as a well known colonel, I decided to create the fund. I am the daughter of a military family and value their jobs to keep us safe, so the least I could do was to create this fund. It is gratifying to talk to parents and learn how their children have gotten better and how our programs have really changed their life.
Leading up to golf, the tournament began with a group picture in the golf course and a shotgun about 10:30 a.m. which included a modified best ball format, three-part challenges and other contests along with cocktails and a diner reception.
ACT Today! based their program’s effort on the fact that, when you live in gratitude and give back, something good always come back to you. ATMF (ACT Today For Military Families) has provided assistance to over 120 military-connected families through its family grant program. Grants funded included assistance with applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, medical services, iPods and communication devices, safety equipment, service dogs, legal services, therapy equipment, assessments and other quality of life supports. This event is a continuing effort to keep providing such services.
ACT Today Founder Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh is a world-renowned clinical psychologist and expert in the field of autism research and therapy. Dr. Doreen has worked with a wide range of patients – from high-functioning children with autism to the most challenging individuals whose families have been told to give up hope. Dr. Doreen has an unparalleled recovery rate, enabling children with autism to lead independent lives. With a PhD in Psychology from UCLA, Dr. Doreen is licensed by the medical boards of California, Texas and Virginia and Arizona State Boards of Psychologists and is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. She is the 2011 recipient of the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists‘ prestigious Winokur Award.
ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today) Is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and providing treatment to families of children with autism that cannot afford or access the necessary tools their children need to reach their full potential.
For more information about ACT Today! Visit their website.