Raising awareness, funds, and voices through teen-led fundraisers that foster an inclusive community for those on the autism spectrum.
Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Date You Started Your Project Started
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
The lack of understanding of autism spectrum disorder isolates autistic people in their schools and communities, while a lack of funds and community outreach continues to hurt special-needs schools. We've seen the effects of ignorance and stigma in the way our autistic brother is treated by others, and how his opportunities are limited. This problem can and must be solved to make a better life for kids, teens, and adults who are on the spectrum.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Operation Raise will provide the necessary resources to teens who have experience with a friend or family member who has autism and are looking to raise awareness and funds for their local special-needs schools/programs. These include a written guide to running an Autism Awareness Event, from advice on securing a space to instructions for setting up a t-shirt ordering station and automatically directing funds to the organization of their choice; an original Operation Raise t-shirt design featuring an informative and powerful message on the back to continue education beyond the event; and a booklet containing accessible information on Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as several essays written by teens who have siblings or friends on the spectrum, relating the unique bonds, challenges, and rewards of their experience and providing a framework for the event-running teen to share their own story in a speech at the event.
We will also continue to hold annual Autism Awareness Events in our own community, dedicated to our disabled brother, and try to increase the variety of t-shirt designs for the shirts to be sold at the events.
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
My triplet brother Jackson held the first Autism Awareness Event at our high school last year, dedicating it to our older brother who was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. Jackson sold original t-shirts and gave a talk about our brother's story, doing so before a theater show devised by Jacque Carnahan, co-produced of the Arts for Autism event in NYC. Being a part of it and seeing Jackson's vision come to life—that of sharing our disabled brother's story and humanizing him to our community while also raising money for the schools and programs that helped him learn basic ASL and life skills—made me realize I wanted to help him continue this project beyond one event. Thus, Operation Raise was born. Our hope is that we can help others with siblings or friends on the autism spectrum to make the same lasting, positive change in their community that we made in ours.
4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”
Jackson was very nervous about being on camera, so he laughs a bit in the video, but we enjoyed speaking about Operation Raise and why we're stepping up to make a change.
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
An interested teen or group would work with their school or local rec center to set a time and place for their Operation Raise Autism Awareness Event. We found success hosting our first event in tandem with a school musical. Then, they would set up a CustomInk t-shirt fundraiser for their event, using an Operation Raise design and choosing which organization or charity the funds would go to. Finally, they would host the event, which can include anything from speeches about ASD to stories from those affected by it, as well as media presentations or art. There should be a station set up with a computer or tablet device open to the CustomInk fundraiser page so attendees can place their orders, as well as an accessible link if they would prefer to order later. At our first event, we had paper puzzle pieces that attendees could write positive messages on, as well as speeches and snacks.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Many groups and organizations trying to end ignorance of Autism Spectrum Disorder are coming from a very academic or medical perspective. This is certainly necessary, but when it comes to educating teens and bringing communities together, Operation Raise's accessible, personal approach is more fit. Our ideal host is someone with a friend, family member, or even themselves on the spectrum who can give their unique insight into the hills and valleys of autism. At the same time, hosting the events at schools/rec centers fosters a sense of community and catharsis that most fundraisers do not.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Our mother, who is the full-time caregiver for our disabled brother, was brought to tears by the outpouring of support, understanding, and kindness shown by our community during and after the first Autism Awareness Event. Several of our classmates have since met our brother, and treated him with more respect than many adults have in the past. Best of all, Operation Raise raised over $700 in t-shirt sales, which was donated to ABC schools of Southern California to buy new sensory toys and other needed supplies. Helping someone else to hold their own event by providing the resources mentioned above would let us see our program enabling others to make a difference. And other local programs that often go under-funded getting the money they need will help children and young adults just like our brother to get the same chance at a good education that we had in traditional school.
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Right now, Operation Raise is preparing to branch out. Once we finish writing our information and essays booklet for the next local Autism Awareness Event (Winter 2019), we would like to create more shirt designs, potentially with a professional artist if we receive funding. We also plan to create a complete guide to holding an event, which we will make available on our website. Then, we plan to reach out to programs such as Siblings Of Autism and Autism Speaks to connect with potential Operation Raise event hosts, and potentially use paid, targeted ads on social media to increase this network. Besides this, if we have the resources we would like to attend at least one conference related to autism programs to further our outreach.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations between $1k-$5k
How did you hear about this challenge?