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You Don’t Need to Open Your Wallet to Give

Christmas and Hanukkah are around the corner. Two major religious holidays that celebrate miracles and the ideas of gift-giving and charity, besides having a religious identity. As an organization devoted to charity, we at the Els Foundation stress exactly the importance of material giving but, even more than a simple cash donation, improving the lives of those with autism, holding up pillars in our community, and listening to those with the condition are also very important to us.

The donations that we receive also allow the Foundation to employ someone like me, an actual ASD personality, to write these blog posts, edit various important company manuals, and to serve as a role model to the community-at-large. It’s not just advocating from abroad, but advocating from home. Plus, the donations go to a state-of-the-art professional school, the Center of Excellence, whose purpose is to give autistic kids a sensory-friendly environment in which to improve on their skills and to get an education.

As many readers would know, autism was officially diagnosed by the U.S. Government in 1990, and Asperger’s, my condition, in 1994. Thus, because of the relatively recent nature of the condition, our mission is more experimental and cutting-edge than many organizations devoted to pursuing answers to different disabilities. It is up to potential donors to go to the oasis brands in the desert, especially in a county as large as Palm Beach, and to make history!

But, beyond autism, part of our mission is to create a more inclusive environment through the game of golf with #GameON Autism™ Golf. Golf is a huge industry, with lucrative careers and a thriving culture on the greens. Beyond that, the Els’ mission is to also pinpoint the strengths of golf as a source to challenge, and improve on disability. You don’t need to be an atlas to succeed in golf, which requires patience, practice, determination, perseverance and a connection to the soul of the sport. It could introduce an autistic individual to a new favorite sport, and, perhaps, could also give that same person a great and highly fulfilling livelihood.

Nonetheless, cash donations are not the only way to celebrate the spirit of this Foundation.

There have been many stories this past year that illustrate my point.-  A football player sitting with an autistic kid at lunch and a cheerleader asking an autistic kid to prom are two that come to mind.- These are individuals that use their prominence and positions within the greater community to help out those who may feel lonely or set apart from their peers. In the spirit of the holiday, perhaps consider helping someone who may be quieter or feel isolation and reach out to them. Who is outside of your typical friendship unit? Do you know someone who needs help? Just because someone doesn’t say a word, doesn’t mean that they are always comfortable or satisfied with the way everything is around them. Everyone appreciates a little kindness so pass it on!

If you have a friend with autism, take them out to enjoy and share an experience with them. Or, if you know someone who has a crush, offer to take them both out to the movies or a holiday parade, or perhaps take them to a dance, if the crush is with you. Tell the person on the spectrum how much you appreciate them, and for those of us with autism, I recommend trying something new.

Do something new. Be something new. Whether on the spectrum or not, we all can benefit from extra compassion and opening our hearts to others who need it most. Happy holidays to all. Thank you for joining me on the journey through this blog.  — Merrick Egber