Today’s news:

Assemblyman Weprin lifts up autism program

Annette Schroter (c.), who created the Illuminate the Unisphere in Pink and Blue event, signs a $5,000 donation check addressed to ArtAccess at the Queens Museum to benefit children with autism alongside Sen. Toby Stavisky (second from l.) and Assemblyman David Weprin (r.). Photo by Phil Corso
TimesLedger Newspapers

Surrounded by artwork in the heart of the borough’s cultural headquarters, state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) presented a $5,000 check Friday to the Flushing Queens Museum’s ArtAccess program to benefit individuals with autism.

The money, Weprin said, was raised in April at the Illuminate the Unisphere in Pink and Blue fund-raiser in conjunction with the United New York Early Intervention Providers to raise awareness of autism in the borough.

“We know how much this program depends on additional funding sources and hope that these funds will help the museum keep the program going,” Weprin said of the donation. “We are grateful to those who contributed and for their continued support for the program.”

Weprin hosted the Illuminate the Unisphere benefit in April and said the first of its kind was a great success. The autism awareness project was created by Annette Schroter, autism advocate and parent of an autistic daughter, and Leslie Grubler, who founded UNYEIP.

“Children with autism are exceptional children. We chose to donate this money because we are already familiar with the great work the [ArtAccess] program does,” Grubler said. “We look forward to more of the exceptional work this program does with such exceptional children.”

Weprin joined with state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and officials from the Queens Museum to acknowledge the new funds.

“Arts are usually the first things cut when school districts try and save money,” Stavisky said. “We are looking forward to working with folks from the community and colleagues in government to keep programs like this going.”

People with autism often require individualized therapy to meet their needs, Weprin said, so raising money to support the Queens Museum’s ArtAccess program guarantees that children will maintain the opportunity to receive the care they deserve.

“This is one of the programs we are most proud of,” said Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the Queens Museum of Art. “To see how the instructors work with both the kids and families is incredibly moving.”

Michelle López, senior coordinator of the ArtAccess Library Programs & Autism Initiatives at the museum, said every penny contributed to the program goes a long way.

“We really need the support. Fund-raising is very important to keep projects like this moving,” López said. “We really appreciate all of the help.”

In addition to the $5,000 check, Weprin said he would propose making April 2013 Autism Awareness Month to the Assembly.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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