In April, Debbie Huron took her son, Owen, to the Children's Hospital of Richmond and came away with a daunting diagnosis: autism. That evening, she looked online for more information and came across the Web site for the organization Autism Speaks, which quickly answered a variety of her questions. "It gave me a lot of hope," Huron says. "It linked me to other parents, and we get ideas from each other."
Owen, 4, is one of more than 9,000 children in Virginia public schools who are identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to the state Department of Education. The complex developmental disability results from a disorder affecting the brain.
Autism Speaks was founded five years ago by Bob Wright, former CEO of NBC Universal, and his wife, Suzanne, after their grandchild's diagnosis. Since then, it has become the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization.
This fall, Autism Speaks will hold its first fundraising events in Virginia. Girls Night Out for Autism Speaks, set for 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 17 at The Colony Club at 10 E. Franklin St. in Richmond, will feature free spa treatments by Impressions Spa. Light hors d'oeuvres from Homemades by Suzanne will be served while guests peruse jewelry, clothing, home accessories and other items offered by about 40 vendors. Ticket sales ($15 in advance, $18 at the door) will benefit Autism Speaks.
Another event, Walk Now for Autism, is scheduled for Oct. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Richmond International Raceway. Participants will walk laps to benefit Autism Speaks. Huron is prepared — she has already formed a team called Owen's Steppers. For details, visit girlsnightoutrichmond.webs.com or autismspeaks.org .