Dear Shanghai community,
I am really excited to tell you about the activities we have been involved in these last few weeks. As many of you know, April is World Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd is the official day. Earlier this year, we identified this month as a time to really bring our community together and raise awareness of Autism in China, among new and old friends alike.
We wanted to connect different organizations, both local and international, that are all working towards the same goal of raising awareness and supporting children with special needs in China.
My first target was the Rotary Club of Shanghai. Rotary is a service organization that upholds the highest standards for conducting service projects locally and internationally. Rotary just celebrated its 111th birthday. The Shanghai Club, which I will take over as President on July 1st of this year, will have its 100th birthday in just three years!
The second organization we brought to the table is Rotaract, Rotary’s youth division. Last year they held a charity run called “Run in Blue”. I approached them many months back and asked them if they would be interested in having the run focus on Autism Awareness. Given their amazing attitude and willingness to impact worthwhile causes, everything fell into place.
Another important partner for April was the wonderful local Special Education School in Pudong. We really wanted to do an event that showcased this incredible school and its dedicated staff. Our collective thought was how about doing an event for autism awareness at the school.
On April 2nd, we held the Autism Awareness event, and it went very well. We had more than 300 people attend the event and they really had a moving experience. The School was a terrific host and everyone from the community did so much to make the experience delightful. We had some great sponsors, like tents and Wechat photo printers from Allied Pickfords, Mad-Croc beverages, Chilean Apples from SVA Fruits,volunteers from Gap, Shanghai Town, Country Club and Deckers and specialists from ELG and NYU Shanghai.
On April 9th, Run in Blue took place. The event had a little over 100 participants last year. It was a great event. This year, with the great connection to an important cause, autism awareness, and by working with Rotaract to expand their network of participating organizations, it grew close to 500 participants. In fact, they had to close registration a week before the event because there was too much interest!
The event included not just a 5k run, but also a pre-run yoga lesson, a post run speech on Autism, a Bollywood dancing session and much more. It was an amazing day of fun activities all the while discussing autism and the lives of people it touches.
Throughout the two events, there was a very important connecting force: the AWare sleeves that you see in the pictures of the participants. These blue and yellow sleeves were a donation by Gap and the brain child of Xiersen General Manager Nikki Lindgren. Their purpose is twofold: people wearing them can show commitment to raising awareness of autism, while the money from purchasing the sleeves goes to Xiersen, where it will be used to train parents and caregivers of children with ASD in China on the newest methods available.