Autism benefit concert set at local venue

Ethan Subra

Autism affects almost everyone.

To those who have the disorder, it affects them directly. 

Chances are, with one in every 110 children now affected with autism, every student knows someone who has been affected by the disorder.

Friday, one ISU student’s goal for an autism benefit and awareness event geared toward students and the community will be attained.

Chris Byrd, junior in animal science, has been involved with Autism Speaks U since he transferred from the University of Northern Iowa in spring 2010.

Byrd has been working since July organizing the event that will happen Saturday. A benefit concert for Autism Speaks U will take place tomorrow at Zeke’s on Lincoln Way with artists William Elliott Whitmore, The New Bodies and Christian Brown in the lineup.

Autism Speaks U, an initiative of Autism Speaks, is designed for college students who want to host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events while supporting their local autism communities.

Autism Speaks U started in 2006 with its inaugural event at Penn State University. Since then, Autism Speaks U has raised almost $800,000 through events such as walk-runs, bake sales, pool parties, putt-putt tournaments and movie nights.

Student-organized walk teams have brought in millions more.

Autism is a brain disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is also accompanied by behavioral challenges. Symptoms range from mild to severe and typically last throughout a person’s lifetime.

“I actually was at a gas station and I found a pamphlet for [Autism Speaks U], and autism was something that I had been interested in,” Byrd said on how he got involved with Autism Speaks U. “I think it’s something that needs to be focused on.”

This year, more children will be diagnosed with autism than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.

“We are focused on engaging and interacting with college students. A majority of the students involved in Autism Speaks U have a connection to autism and are extremely passionate about the cause,” said Sarah Caminker, online community fundraising manager for Autism Speaks.

Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. and costs the nation more than $35 billion annually, a figure expected to significantly increase in the next decade.

Byrd said that while he doesn’t have the time now, within his last two semesters at Iowa State he hopes to start an Autism Speaks chapter or other type of autism awareness-creating club at Iowa State. Byrd also hopes to do more fundraising for Autism Speaks U at Iowa State in the future.

“All of the money that comes out of the concert will go to Autism Speaks,” Byrd said.

The benefit concert is at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Zeke’s. Doors open at 6 p.m. The cost is $5 in advance, $6 at the door.