Ag For Autism and Make-A-Wish to Host Event

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Collin Rutherford (left) and brother Max hold up a Make-A-Wish banner when Collin's wish to visit Disney World was granted. Collin has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. His mother will speak at the benefit. (courtesy photo)

Ag for Autism and the Make-A-Wish Foundation are coming together at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Marmaduke Community Center to hold a live auction and dinner benefiting both organizations.

This is the second year the two charitable foundations have sponsored this event. Marmaduke native and farmer Cliff Carter accompanied by Paragould Armor Seed sales agronomist Danny Graham are championing the event they hold so dear to their hearts.

"We wanted to do this benefit in our own community to give back locally as part of the farming community," Carter said. "People don't realize we're all in this together. From Rector to Piggott to Marmaduke to Paragould."

The auction features items of all kinds for men and women. "We were donated lanyards for duck calls made by an autistic boy in southern Arkansas and it made his day to give them to us for the benefit," Carter said. Duck calls, guided hunts, spa treatments, and items from all over Arkansas are donated.

Donations will be taken up until the event. To donate contact Carter at (870)215-5751 or Graham at (870)240-5739.

Tickets will cost only $10 and will cover entry and dinner at the benefit. Dinner will consist of your choice of pork ribeye or a half chicken.

During the benefit parents of local children who have benefited directly from last year's auction will give testimonies about how the event and foundations have helped their families, including Make-A-Wish child Collin Rutherford's mother Nikki Rutherford and Graham. Graham's eight-year-old son Maddux is autistic, making the cause of the benefit hit home for him especially.

His employer, Armor Seed, is a sponsor of Ag for Autism, which is a league of agriculture-related businesses which have banned together to raise autism awareness and help autistic children receive needed help paying for beneficial therapies and therapeutic items. Last year the benefit raised more than $18,000 from this benefit and the money was split equally for both causes, as it will be this year.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder often characterized by language delays, fine or gross motor skill delays, not making eye contact, restrictions and repetitiveness in play and non-social behavior. The spectrum of autism is broad and varies in degrees from one child to the next, so what one child reacts to may not interest the next.

Graham has seen many autistic children benefit from the use of an iPad as a stimulating educational tool. "It's amazing to see a child pick one up for the first time and really respond," Graham said. However, not all children respond the same and sometimes it's an instrument or something entirely different. Last year Ag for Autism purchased a young boy in Jonesboro a mandolin and several others iPads. The iPads are used as a stimulant and can increase educational boundaries as many autistic children may pay more attention to the object than they would a person.

Both Graham and Carter see a real need for autism awareness, because it seems to be something no one wants to talk about, and gets placed on the back burner of funding from the government when it comes to therapy and research.

Make-A-Wish's split of the money goes directly into granting local wishes for children with debilitating illnesses and forms of cancer. At one time the child's diagnosis had to be terminal for the application to be approved; now Make-A-Wish also looks to improve the lives of children going through very difficult illnesses.

Carter was captivated by "the power of a wish" four years ago when he went along with Northeast Arkansas Make-A-Wish coordinator Christie Matthews to grant the wish of a young girl. Carter had won a Monsanto contest to receive $2,500 for a Make-A-Wish donation. The contest gave Carter the opportunity to sponsor the wish. "Seeing the way a child lights up when you grant their wish is beyond words," Carter said.

Since his first wish-granting Carter has worked extensively volunteering with the organization. "So many children have touched my heart and I hope to have made their lives a little better," Carter said. He considers Make-A-Wish his winter job. "Every day I pray for the Lord to break my heart to make one of theirs better."

These foundations are not the kind to take your money and pay CEO's either. Every dime can be accounted for and donators can watch online at either organization's websites, which are www.agforautism.org and www.midsouth.wish.org

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