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What a month! From the beginning to the very end, we were blown away by our supporters,
families, staff, donors, and our community as we celebrated Autism Acceptance Month. This
year was epic thanks to everyone involved and it inspires us to see everyone rally around the
children, adolescents, young adults, and families we love. Every day we are one step closer
to a world of acceptance and inclusion. THANK YOU!!!      

$432,000 raised at the 2024 Autism Acceptance Awards Gala

Family Initiative’s annual Autism Acceptance Awards Gala recognizes and celebrates
the everyday champions of the ASD community to promote inclusion, education and
empowerment for the ASD community and beyond.   

Honorees included: 

· The Believer Award was given to Mia DePasquale, for her positive impact on students
and families with autism.  

· The Champion Award was presented to Florida’s Speaker of the House, Paul Renner
for helping to positively influence and advance the well-being of children with ASD.   

· The Partner Award was given Tracy Taylor, behavior analyst with Agency for Persons
with Disabilities for providing opportunities and access for children young adults with ASD.

· The Dylan Award was presented to Caroline King, a speech pathologist at Gulf Elementary
for her steadfast commitment to students.

Proceeds from the Autism Acceptance Awards Gala will directly support children and
families on Family Initiative’s waiting list, the hiring of certified clinicians and free or
low-cost community services to help children on the autism spectrum thrive and to reduce
or eliminate the waitlist for services. The nonprofit organization offers social skills programs,
clinical services and community education for children and families across Southwest Florida.   

The Autism Acceptance Awards Gala was chaired by Jessica Van Hart with the support of a
committee of parents and community partners. The event’s gold champagne sponsor was
Tomahawk Construction, cocktail hour sponsor was City Tavern, live auction sponsor was
Van Hart Provisions, entertainment sponsor was EZ Boat Fenders and awards sponsors were
Heyer Quality Construction and Paragon Flight Training. The Red-Carpet sponsor was Fabri-
Tech/Fabri-Tech Outdoor Living, the roaming photographer sponsor was Siesta Pebble, and
the silent auction sponsor was JND Mechanical.   

VIP sponsors included MacKoul Pediatrics Fort Myers, American Metals Supply, Suncoast
Beverage Sales, Golisano Children’s Hospital and Coastal Building Construction. Table
sponsors included Independent Marine Surveyors, Inc., Pristine TLC Group, First Horizon
Foundation, TR Transportation, Boyle, Leonard and Anderson, PA, San Juan Pools, Florida
Sales and Marketing/Super Screen, Sanibel Captiva Trust Company, Barraco and Associates,
Inc., Gavin’s Ace Hardware, Johnson Engineering, Hellcat Social, Aluminum Specialties
Wholesale, Philly STK guy, Quality Philly Steaks, and Sunshine Health.

Special thanks for the event’s success went to The Island Club at North Captiva, Lee County
Sheriff’s Office, Mark Loren Designs, MarineMax, Norman Love Confections, Fabri Tech
Outdoor Living, MacKoul Pediatrics Fort Myers, and Gavin’s Ace Hardware.      

Amplifying Acceptance Through the Power of Music!

We had an incredible day at 10 Twenty Five Downtown Fort Myers for our Rock Autism
benefit concert! The energy and support were truly inspiring.  From the awesome lineup
of bands to the fun activities and delicious food, there was something for everyone to
enjoy. And who could forget the Fort Myers Fire Chief braving the dunk tank? That was
an unforgettable highlight! We’re so grateful to 10 Twenty Five for hosting, the Fort Myers
Fire and Police Departments for their participation, our sponsors and every single person
who helped make this day possible. But most of all, thank you to our amazing community
for coming out and rocking with us!      

Autism Acceptance Month Proclamation!

Our Family Initiative crew was thrilled to join Lee County in celebrating World Autism Day.
The board of directors beamed as they accepted the proclamation declaring April as Autism
Acceptance Month. Thank you to our partners in the county for their unwavering support.
Together, we’re shining a light on the autism community!      

APD Florida Hosts Empowering Roundtable with Family Initiative  

What a blessing to have welcomed Director Taylor Hatch and the APD Florida (Agency
for Persons with Disabilities) team for a roundtable discussion! Our families were truly
inspired by their leadership and commitment to building a better world for our loved ones.
The conversation was powerful beyond words. Hearing the hopes, dreams and experiences
directly from families was so impactful for all. We’re excited about the future and cannot wait
to partner with APD to make it a reality here in Florida! Immense gratitude to Director Hatch
and the entire APD team for taking the time to really listen. Their dedication gives us so much
hope for continued progress statewide.      

Family Fun Day: A Day of Joy, Connection and Community!

We had an absolutely amazing Autism Acceptance Family Fun Day! The energy and
excitement were off the charts! Seeing so many smiling faces, and engaging activities
warmed our hearts. We’re overflowing with gratitude for our dedicated crew and
vendors who made this special day possible.      

Family Initiative’s Visionary Leadership Spotlighted in News-Press!    

The News-Press recently featured an editorial highlighting the crucial role of
employment in enhancing quality of life for the autism community. The piece
explored how Family Initiative’s innovative Thrive Academy is meeting this
vital need, providing individualized academics and workforce training to prepare
students on the spectrum for meaningful careers. By equipping individuals with
the right skills and support, they’re empowering greater independence and trans-
forming lives.        

Social Skills ASD Saturday Playgroup!

Our Hallmark Program, ASD Social Skills Playgroup, continues to grow. Our team works
hard to make sure all our kids have a great time in a safe, welcoming environment while
learning skills and having a blast!

Join us each Saturday at 1:00pm at Christ Community Church in Fort Myers!

No pre-registration required!   


Empowering ASD Youth & Young Adults

Thrive Academy is excited to beginning open enrollment of applications for the upcoming
school year! We strongly encouraging families interested in exploring Thrive Academy as
an educational option, please visit our website. Simply navigate to the admissions section
to gain valuable insights into our application process. Should you feel that our learning
environment aligns with your child’s needs, we encourage you to complete the application
and submit the necessary documents for our team’s review. Our dedicated team is here to
assist you every step of the way.  Click below to learn more about Thrive Academy!        
Be sure to stay up to date on all Family Initiative Events, News, Programs, and Services
by subscribing to our notifications!


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Family Initiative, Inc
734 SW 4th Street
Cape Coral, FL 33991
United States     
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