Autism Information

Monday, November 24, 2008

12-year-old hopes to raise $300 million to fight autism

Twelve-year-old Michala Riggle has a big dream -- raising $300 million to build a center to help children like her younger brother Evan beat autism.

And she believes she can realize that dream, because she has already raised $300,000 for autism research, beginning with a simple idea of selling colorful beaded bracelets for $3 each.

"I wanted a research and treatment place where all these kids could go to get better and get cured," said the sixth-grader at Ramsey Middle School.

Her parents and supporters, who are scheduled to officially announce their plans at a news conference this evening, have taken steps toward their goal, but still have much work ahead.

They hope to raise half the money by selling a million bracelets in each state and half through corporate donations and have enlisted the help of entertainer and Kentucky native Ashley Judd to create promotional DVDs to send to corporations.

But they don't yet have committed donors, haven't partnered with a university or other institution and are still working to recruit more people to the board of their nonprofit Michala Riggle Beat Autism Foundation Inc.

Tim Seiler, director of The Fund Raising School at Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy, said the family's grass-roots effort represents a huge challenge, especially in this economy. "I wouldn't say it's impossible," he said, "but they're swimming upstream doing it this way."

The Riggles said they know it will be difficult, but are committed to attack a disorder that now affects an estimated one in 150 children.

"The rise in autism is epidemic," said Michala's mother, Emlyn. "We've got to do something."


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