Last year during Autism Acceptance Month, because of your support, we were able to raise nearly $8000 which was doubled by Kevin's personal match. With those additional funds, ASK was able to start up a new program for young adults going through the transition of life after school. This was a crucial addition to ASK's list of services as there is a gap in community services provided for those going through this transition. The new program was eventually dubbed, "Clubhouse" and kicked off in September of last year. This group meets on a weekly basis for 3 hours a week. They are running at capacity with 12 members ranging in age from 17-27. I caught up with ASK Executive Director, Pam Liggett, to find out more information about the program and how it's going.
The first thing I asked her was to talk about the overall objectives for this program. Pam said, "Our goal is to create an opportunity for young adults with Autism to have a place to go. Many end up sitting at home alone. This program has created a chance for friendship, belonging, life skill development, independence, and fun. Each week we have discussion time, activities like art, music, or guests, cooking, exercise, and free time." ASK is hoping to expand their activities to include some outings they can walk to and may eventually try a group meet-up at Fred Meijer Gardens in the future. They are already seeing positive changes in their members lives. Members feel like they have true friends for the first time in their life. "They text each other, check in, support each other, and truly care about one another. Often they will say that this is the first time they have felt comfortable in a group setting," she explained. Many are now participating in many other ASK activities, too, like Theater Group and the Social Group. Pam went on to say, "It's nice that they want to be as involved in our programming as possible." She also told us about one particular member who has had huge changes in her demeanor and confidence. "Susie* came to us as a very timid person, her physical body language was quite withdrawn. She'd have hunched shoulders who wouldn't look us in the eyes. The Susie of today is barely recognizable. She comes into the building by herself, comforts others as needed, can be relied on to carry out tasks herself, has grown into a leader, and is currently involved in the theater group as well. She has blossomed into a happy, confident young woman. Her parents credit ASK with that transformation because she has a place to belong, has friends, and is no longer lonely." It is clear to see that the Clubhouse program and ASK other programming has a powerful impact on the lives of individuals with Autism.
Pam also shared that ASK is now the most active Autism organization in West Michigan. She went on to say, "We feel the weight and responsibility of that. In order for us to continue to provide the many programs that we offer and to continue to be available as a resource and to grow and add new things, we need you! We exist only on donations, so every dollar really does count." You can check out ASK's other programming and donate on their website. You can also join Purposeful Wealth Strategies' team for ASK's upcoming annual Walk for Autism here.
*name changed to respect individual's privacy