By Diana Hereld | @christypaffgen
On Thursday, Autism Speaks held their Third Annual Blue Jean Ball at Boulevard3 in Hollywood. The evening began with a star-studded blue carpet, including appearances from Joshua Jackson, Diane Kruger, J.K. Simons and Dave Grohl. Hosted by TV personality Maria Menounos (Extra) and Michael Chiklis (The Shield), the ball included musical performances by Rick Springfield, Ryan Bingham and Dave Grohl, a live auction and the honoring of Chuck Saftler (FX Networks) for his dedication and work in the field of autism awareness, and testimony of Saftler’s son’s personal journey as a child on the autism spectrum.
Only a decade ago, the diagnostic percentage of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was 1 in 10,000. By 2013, this figure leapt to 1 in 88. While the cause of this alarming growth, treatment and a cure for autism continue to be a heavily debated and controversial issue, the fact remains that the disorder is growing, and attention to this circumstance is no longer optional.
During the event, a few attendees on the spectrum were graced with a photo op with Dave Grohl. One such young man, Andrew Hain, 21, had much to say on why Autism Speaks is a great organization deserving of celebrity endorsement and attention.
“It’s amazing – they do amazing things. Autism Speaks’ main focus is on four things: research, advocacy, family services and awareness. Advocacy can come in the form of insurance reform, where the government can chip in. Research can be raising money for genetic exploration, and awareness…people need to know now that Autism affects 1 in 88 families. We have to get the word out to the general public that it’s more common that in used to be. When I was first diagnosed, it was 1 in 10,000.
Andrew’s father, Phillip Hain, originally became involved with Autism Speaks as a volunteer. He has since served as the national director of the Team Up! with Autism Speaks for 6 years.
“I was drawn to it because of its reach into the community, its ability to fund wonderful research and provide tools and resources to help families navigate a very complicated system.”
(For fascinating story Music Makes the Difference on Andrew, ASD and music, please visit the Autism Speaks Blog).
The evening concluded with a rousing and poignant acoustic performance by Dave Grohl. Interspersing hits including “Times Like These,” “My Hero” and “Everlong,” the packed nightclub fell quiet when Grohl shared words on why he was thankful to be in the position to give back to organizations like Autism Speaks. “One of the greatest things about being a musician – I write a song for one reason, and I sing it to you guys, and then you sing it back to me for eighty thousand difference reasons.”
When so many on the spectrum can be aided by therapies in music developing social skills, memory, abilities in empathy and stimulating cognitive functioning needed for elements like speech, sensory-motor and overall communication, those with the means and reach – especially musicians – should care. People universally connect to and are healed by music in thousands of different ways, and when we have the resources, we need leave no one behind.