By Jacqueline Monahan
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Grant a Gift Foundation “Fashion for Autism” Benefit at Four Seasons

The Grant A Gift Autism Foundation presented its first annual “Fashion for Autism Las Vegas” event on Friday, January 22 in the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas Grand Ballroom. The evening raised funds to support the families in Nevada who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a neuro-developmental medical condition that strikes 1 in 110 children (4 out of 5 of them are boys).

Grant a Gift Executive Director Lynda Tache

Over 6000 families are affected by ASD in Nevada, a number greater than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS cases combined. ASD is characterized by impairments with moderate to severe delays in social interactions, fine and gross motor skills, language and communication, repetitive behaviors and compulsive preoccupations. All funds raised in Nevada by the Foundation go directly to help children in Nevada.

Starting with a champagne reception, the evening continued with a silent auction that had guests strolling through a labyrinth of displayed items open for bidding. Along with a black and white six-string s guitar once owned by Paul McCartney; there were Elvis and Eagles memorabilia; an autographed photo of Jennifer Love Hewitt along with a Ghost Whisperer script (also signed); a selection of fine wines (some of them even designer, such as the Christian Audigier Cabernet Sauvignon); and four tickets to Legoland California.

Silent Aution Items

A Phantom package that included the show, dinner at Morton’s steakhouse and a hotel stay was an exceptionally hot item, as were luxury gift baskets of spa products, champagne, and even developmental children’s services. Also offered was a framed Goodfellas commemorative poster signed by the director, Martin Scorsese, and the film’s stars (Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Paul Sorvino and Joe Pesce), and a golf ball trio signed by three generations of the sport’s legends – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.

Host John Daly

The dinner program featured a donation drive, led by the dynamic John Daly, former host of Real-TV and HGTV’s House Detective. Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons was on hand to lend her support to Grant a Gift’s founder and Executive Director, Lynda Tache. The foundation’s mission is to provide support services such as early intervention, diagnostic, speech, occupational, physical and behavior therapies, sibling workshops, respite, family and psychological counseling, and social skills groups.

Lynda Tache and Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons

A short video detailed family life with children affected by ASD as well as interviews with their mothers, who spoke about having to quit jobs to care for their children; how hard it was for their children to socialize or even take a simple trip to the store; how exhausted they were by the child who needed constant attention so much that siblings were frequently ignored out of necessity.

Tache recounted her own experiences as the mother of an eight year old son with ASD, almost breaking into tears as she watched the video, saying, “That’s my life.” Just recently she’d been ordered never to bring her son into a particular McDonald’s after he’d had an ASD episode that Tache referred to as a “meltdown.”

Assemblyman James Ohrenschall

The Foundation honored Nicole Ann Cavenagh, Ph.D.Touro University Nevada Center for Autism & Development Disabilities Clinical Director (Ambassador for Autism Award); Assemblyman James Ohrenschall (Autism Advocate Award); and Jack Kim, Vice President of State Government Affairs, United Health Group (Autism Community Care Award). The three were chosen for their commitment, dedication and hard work on behalf of the children of Southern Nevada, each in their own unique way (research, legislation and advocacy).

Jack Kim of United Health Care

Dr. Nicole Ann Cavenagh

A live auction followed, with Daly facilitating some brisk bidding across the room for one of the five offered packages. They included a VIP private dinner and wine pairing for 12, ($3100) and an exclusive New Year’s Eve dinner with private chef and catered party for 20 with full Strip View ($2200). An Ultimate Fighting VIP package was a favorite with male attendees ($1100).

MAX & Co.’s Spring 2010 Collection was featured in the fashion show which followed, and the company donated15% of all on-site purchases to the Foundation. Prices ranged from $28 (leggings) to $635 (leather jacket) with a midrange of about $248 for a typical dress. That doesn’t mean there’s anything typical about these clothes, though. With names like Ocarina, Addamo, Maniago and Bagliore, they are imbued at the thread level with Italian flare and sophistication.

Walking the Runway

The entire line from the Max Mara Fashion Group is fun and youthful - styles you can actually wear in everyday life, from business casual to sporty to cocktail attire. Little black dresses, tall boots, suede pumps, feminine trousers, flirty jackets with ruffles and sheer tunics made up the bulk of the line. There are shirt-dresses, cuffed pants, skinny leggings and cropped blazers in shades of blacks, grays and browns. The Italian influence lends itself to an air of romance that seems to be sewn right in like an extra pocket.

Little Black Dress

The Max Mara Fashion Group has sponsored and developed worldwide youth services in the arts and education for more than 50 years.

Max & Co. "bling"

Judging from the capacity turnout, enthusiastic bids and generous donations, The First Annual Fashion for Autism Las Vegas was a successful venture sure to be expanded and revisited in future years. A page from the event’s informative program, full of sponsors (this one was Community Connections, Nevada Public Radio) made the point eloquently: A good cause is always in fashion.

Helping children achieve their potential through enhanced quality of life, community inclusion, and family support is Grant a Gift’s goal, and they certainly know how to achieve it – with style.

For further information and upcoming “Grant a Gift” Events:

Grant a Gift Autism Foundation
8550 West Desert Inn Road
Suite 102-343
Las Vegas, NV 89117
(702) 217-4194