Last year, Autism Speaks organized its first fundraising walk in Burlington, Vermont. The walk attracted more than 400 participants and raised nearly $35,000. By many accounts the event was a success, however some parents began to question why they were raising money for national research when local families in Vermont needed immediate assistance.
As a result, one of last year's community sponsors - a group called Autism Support Daily - decided to organize their own walk and call it the Second Annual Vermont Walk on Saturday, September 29th. Rather than give up the event they helped organize - Autism Speaks is fighting back by organizing their own walk on Sunday, September 30th at the same park!
As a result of this dispute, it's likely both groups will only raise a fraction of what was raised last year. While both groups have maintained an amicable relationship in public - some of the messages in private message boards have expressed frustration and confusion.
In response to an email from this blog, Lynn George, the President of Autism Support Daily had this to say:
We appreciate that Autism Speaks raises money for much needed research, however, the families in our area are struggling and need as much support as we can provide for their children now.
While the total amount of money at stake in this "turf battle" is not major - it remains to be seen whether pressure from local groups will potentially erode the fundraising base for large national groups like Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob Wright, Vice Chairman of General Electric, and his wife Suzanne, to improve public awareness about autism and to promote autism research. In 2006 the organization merged with National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and with Cure Autism Now, a 10-year-old organization based in Los Angeles that is primarily involved fund-raising for a variety of autism research.