Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jaci Velasquez

Autism Light #338 is Jaci Velasquez. 

Jaci Velasquez at the White House
Jaci Velasquez is a Christian and Latin Pop singer from Nashville, Tennessee. Jaci Velasquez became an autism mother in the Spring of 2013, when her 5 year old son Zealand was diagnosed with autism by the Nashville Public Schools, when he started kindergarten. After the ASD diagnosis, Jaci became a spokesperson for autism advocacy and has used her singing talents in fundraising for the autism community. Jaci Velasquez is an Autism Light for how she is an autism advocate in honor of her son Zealand.

Jaci Velasquez was born on October 15, 1979, in Houston, Texas. Jaci is of Mexican, Spanish, French, Scottish, and Arab ancestry (Jaci Velasquez, Wikipedia).

Music Career: Jaci Velasquez has been inspring others through her singing for 20 years and, "she has three Platinum albums, three Gold albums, 16 number one singles, six top 10 singles, and seven Dove Awards (Christian Post, October 17, 2013)." For the latest information on Jaci Velasquez and opportunities to hear her music visit her website at

In this video Jaci Velasquez shares about her son Zealand and how God has spoken to her through being a parent.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks: Jaci Velasquez was named the 2013 spokesperson for the Tennessee Walk Now for Autism Speaks. Her related duties included speaking about her connection to autism and the Autism Speaks organization, performing music at their events in Tennessee, and participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony on October 5, 2013. Jaci Velasquez said about this autism advocacy role, "I am honored and humbled to take on the responsibilities of being the spokesperson of 2013. Although the emotions that I am feeling are unfamiliar and uncharted, I find comfort and unwavering support through my faith, family, and both old and new friends alike (Christian Post, October 17, 2013)."

On My Knees: Here is a clip of Jaci Velasquez as she sings one of her #1 hit songs in a live concert. The song On My Knees was released in 1996 on her debut album Heavenly Place and became the title of her "Best of" Album ten years later in 2006.  Though the song was born over a decade before she became an autism mother, it's message offers hope for Christians in the autism community. When Jaci Velasquez sang this song an Autism Speaks event in 2013, she whispered before singing it, "This year I've actually found a new reason to be on my knees (Power Source Music)."

The Gift of Zealand:  
Jaci Velasquez has said this about her autistic son Zealand, "What Zealand has taught me, and continues to teach me each day is that societal labels don't mean a thing. I see and hear 'genius' when I read and hear 'autistic.' Being diagnosed with autism is to be presented with an original gift. My mission is to harvest the gifts that Zealand has been given, and not overlook them. I don't want to overlook these gifts in an effort to try and 'fix' whatever might seem out of place I WILL NOT overlook Zealand's gift, and I want to encourage everyone else too.. DO NOT MISS THE GIFT! (Power Source Music)."

The following video is of Jaci Velasquez singing a duet in 2013 with Michael W. Smith at a Symphony of Life concert. The featured song is Michael W. Smith's classic, Friends. 

Social Media: You can follow Jaci Velasquez on the following social media areas. 
Special thanks to Jaci Velasquez for being an Autism Light. Jaci's music has touched hearts for decades and her faith is now inspiring others as she walks the road of being an autism mother. We wish Jaci Velasquez the best in her music career and in her role as an autism parent. 

Photo: The photo of Jaci Velasquez is in the Public Domain

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pentru Voi Foundation

Autism Light #337 is the Pentru Voi Foundation.

The Pentru Voi Foundation is a non governmental organization that was established in 1995 in Timisoara, Romania to support people with intellectual disabilities. The Pentru Voi Foundation is the first Autism Light from the country of Romania. The Pentru Voi Foundation is an Autism Light for their efforts on behalf of those with Autism in Romania.

Mission: The mission of Pentru Voi is "to increase the quality of life for persons with intellectual disabilities and their families (Vimeo Channel of Pentru Voi)."

2012 FlashMob in Iulius Mall: The Pentru Voi Foundation organized a FlashMob for April 2, 2012 for Autism Awareness Day that performed in the Iulius Mall in Timisoara, Romania. The Timisoara Zumba Club collaborated on this FlashMob for Autism Awarness. To view the video you can Watch the Autism FlashMob on YouTube or watch it below.

2008 Project: "In 2008 Pentru Voi project 'Different Together' received Romanian top award at the civil Society Gala. It is the first time the award goes to an organization from Timisoara, and also the first time when it is won by an organization for people with intellectual disabilities (Pentru Voi Foundation Wikipedia Page)."

Website: You can read more about the Pentru Voi Foundation at their website at

Wikipedia: You can read more about Pentru Voi Foundation at the Pentru Voi Foundation Wikipedia Page.
Social Media: You can follow the Pentru Voi Foundation on the following social media areas.

Special thanks to the Pentru Voi Foundation for their efforts to serve individuals with disabilities in Romania. Those with autism in Romania are blessed to have Pentru Voi Foundation shining their light.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

John and Traci Schneider

Autism Lights #336 are John and Traci Schneider.

John and Traci Schneider are from Seattle, Washington and their 12 year old son Ben has autism. John Schneider works as the General Manager for the Seattle Seahawks and helped develop the team that won Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014. John and Traci Schneider are Autism Lights because of how their advocacy for autism and their fundraising for Ben's Fund at FEAT of Washington is helping autism families in the Seattle area.

NFL Executive: John Schneider has served as the General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks since 2010. He has established himself as a brilliant NFL administrator. Prior to moving to Seattle, he worked for the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers. John Schneider helped construct the Green Bay Packer team that won Super Bowl XLV. Dave Soft Mahler, who is a Sports Radio Show host in Seattle, posted the following tweet in praise of John Schneider in April, 2013.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seattle Seahawks have been very supportive of Ben's Fund. You can watch an autism awareness video of the Schneider's at  The Seahawks have dedicated a portion of their website to help promote the Prime Time Event for Ben's Fund.

Traci Schneider:  Traci Schneider said this about their autism journey, "John and I are of the same mindset where we were heartbroken and devastated for about a day, and then we kind of got to the point where it was like, 'All right, now what do we do?' (, Tony Drovetto, March 22, 2013)."   In addition to being an autism mother, Traci Schneider has volunteered on the board at FEAT and has served as the President of the Seahawks Women's Association.

Ben's Fund: John and Traci Schneider created Ben's Fund in 2012 in order to help families in Washington State receive autism services. The fund provides grants for services in partnership with FEAT (Families for Effective Autism Treatment) of Washington. Ben Schneider has received some important help from the services of FEAT of Washington, when his family moved to Seattle in 2010.

John and Traci Schneider establish "Ben's Fund" charity from Doug Farrar on Vimeo.

FEAT of Washington: According to the Prime Time Website, "FEAT of Washington is a non-profit organization that strives to reach families with a child or children on the autism spectrum, providing support, guidance and resources for families in the community. For the past 15 years, FEAT WA has been developing, creating and inspiring autism programming for Washington's children solely to achieve one purpose - to help those children reach their full potential. Visit to learn more."

Entire Family Impacted: John Schneider said this about autism families, "It's not just an issue for these kids. It's an issue for the entire family and it's hard. It affects your neighbors, the siblings, you can be at a restaurant and things can just fall apart. The mothers are just unbelievable and the siblings have to be unbelievable as well (My, Josh Kerns, April 5, 2012)."

John Schneider believes there is hope for autism. John Schneider said, "There's always hope, we have seen that with our son. He has definitely gotten better with everything that we have done over the past seven years. So we are very fortunate (My, Josh Kerns, April 5, 2012)."

Wikipedia: You can read more about John Schneider at the John Schneider Wikipedia Page.

Special thanks to John and Traci Schneider for being Autism Lights. We wish them continued success as autism parents and advocates. The autism community in Washington State is certainly fortunate to have them on their team as our the many Seahawks fans in the area.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Cliff Kresge

Autism Light #335 is Cliff Kresge.

Cliff Kresge is a 45 year old professional golfer and an autism father. Cliff Kresge's 13 year old son Mason has autism. Cliff Kresge has homes in both Heathrow, Florida and Kingsport, Tennessee.  The headquarters of Kresge's Krew Foundation is in Kingsport, Tennnessee and proceeds benefit autism in East Tennessee, which has fewer autism resources than Florida. Cliff Kresge is an Autism Light for his dedication as an autism father and for how his golfing and charitable work makes a difference for autism in East Tennessee.

Golfer: Cliff Kresge states on his website that, "I got started in golf at age 8 when my parents moved to the 13th hole of Dubsdread GC in Orlando, FL. My swing is natural. I learned to play the game on my own, without an instructor (Cliff Kresge.Net)." Kresge turned pro in 1991 and made his PGA debut in 1994. You can view his golfing statistics at his page on ESPN. Cliff Kresge was the winner of the 2002 Virginia Beach Open.

Golf Week Magazine Father of the Year: In 2011 Cliff Kresge was honored as the Father of the Year by Golf Week Magazine.

Kresge's Krew Foundation:  Cliff Kresge started Kresge's Krew Foundation in honor of his son Mason. Kresge said, "My son inspired us to do our foundation. It's a bittersweet thing, but it is very gratifying and very rewarding (Knox News, August 20, 2012)."

"Kresge's Krew Foundation has raised some $350,000 over the past five years for autism care in East Tennessee (, Jeff Shain, April 24, 2013)." Cliff Kresge said, "Every little bit helps. It doesn't go far enough, I promise you. But to me, awareness is the biggest thing (, Jeff Shain, April 24, 2013)."

Find out more information about Kresge's Krew Foundation on their Website.

The following is a video of Cliff Kresge explaining about the third year of the Kresge's Krew Tourney for Autism Awareness that was held in September, 2011.

After a fundraising event in 2010, Kresge said, "My message with an event like this is that autism isn't some sort of death sentence--autism is something you can function with if you get the proper help. I've learned to appreciate what I have in my life, because I've learned some kids don't have a choice in how their lives go (Golf, Jeff Babineau, September 16, 2010)."

Social Media: You can follow Cliff Kresge on the following social media areas.
Wikipedia:  You can learn more about Cliff Kresge on the Cliff Kresge Wikipedia Page.
Website: Visit the official Cliff Kresge Website for more information on his activities.

Special thanks to Cliff Kresge for being an Autism Light. The blessing he is providing to the autism community in East Tennessee is impacting many lives. We wish him the best in all his autism awareness and his ongoing roll as one of our super autism fathers.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Elijah Winfrey

Autism Light #334 is Elijah Winfrey.

Today on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day we honor a golfer and autism uncle who like the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is using service as his road to make a difference in the world and to shine a light for autism. Elijah (Eli) Winfrey is a 40 year old autism uncle and golfer from Redmond, Washington. He is married to Lisa Winfrey and has one son Jordan Andrew Winfrey. Elijah's nephew and niece who are from his birthplace of Augusta, Georgia have autism. Elijah Winfrey is an Autism Light because he raises autism awareness, in honor of his autistic nephew and niece, through his leadership at the Seattle Children's Autism Guild, his golfing, and his non profit organization called Team Winfrey.

Elijah Winfrey
This is the 3rd Annual special Martin Luther King Jr. Day post at Autism Light. Previous people selected for this significant day were:
Autism Light believes that if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had seen the high rates of autism in his day he would been an autism advocate and might have even added to his "I have a Dream" speech a line such as, "I have a dream that little children with autism will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the eloquence of their communication but by the messages of their heart."

A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that adds insight into the vision that Eli Winfrey follows in his life is when King said, "Everybody can be great...because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't need to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant (The King Center Archives"The Drum Major Instinct", Ebenezer Baptist Church, 2/4/1968).

Eli Winfrey wrote a blog on Martin Luther King, Jr. day in 2012 and said, "As Martin Luther King Jr. said,...You don't have to be famous to be great or to serve. We are all great and we all have a calling to serve whatever it is we believe in. I'm no pro golfer or celebrity with access to millions of people, but if I can spark that one person to stand up and help me, then I know many will follow (Eli Winfrey Blog, 1/20/2012).

The following is a video of Eli Winfrey answering questions about his golfing and autism advocacy.

Eli Winfrey said this to Autism Light about autism, "Autism affects 1 in 50 children and it grows every day. We have to all sit down together and continue to figure out ways to help our communities and continue to raise awareness. At the end of the day we are all in this together. We also have to listen, educate and never forget about the moms and dads who also need us (Elijah Winfrey)."

Golf Tour: Elijah Winfrey golfs competitively on tour with the Golf Channel in the Northwest United States and other parts of the country. Eli Winfrey told Autism Light that, "The main reason I play golf is to raise awareness for and about Autism. I feel like I represent the autism community whenever I tee it up."

Elijah Winfrey Open Invitational Golf Tournament: Elijah Winfrey started the Elijah Winfrey Open Invitational Golf Tournament to raise support for autism. The next tournament will be in September, 2014.

Team Winfrey: On January 20, 2012, Elijah Winfrey founded the charity, Team Winfrey was launched to "contribute to the health and happiness of our communities by making a personal, meaningful impact on individuals and families (Team Winfrey Facebook Page)." Elijah Winfrey serves as the President of Team Winfrey. Some future events the charity has scheduled in addition to the Elijah Winfrey Open Invitational Golf Tournament, include a sensory friendly bowling night, a golf clinic, and distribution of school supplies to low income families in Seattle. Elijah Winfrey will donate $10 for each birdie he makes while on golf tour in 2014 (New Year New Goals!, 1/3/2014). Stay in touch with the charity work at The Team Winfrey Website.

Seattle Children's Autism Guild: Eli Winfrey is the former Vice-President of the Seattle Children's Autism Guild. He continues to work with them but left his position as Vice-President in order to devote more time to his Team Winfrey organization. A gala event in November, 2013, that Eli worked with raised over $400,000 for the Seattle Children's Autism Guild. Their website describes their work in this way:
The Seattle Children's Autism Guild formed to support the Seattle Children's Autism Center's efforts to eliminate barriers to care and to ensure families have access to diagnostic and clinical services. As part of our efforts to support The Autism Center, we strive to foster hope in those families affected by autism (Seattle Children's Autism Guild Website). 
Autism Speaks: Elijah Winfrey has raised funds for Autism Speaks over the years through his golfing and in walking fundraisers, and thus his support of autism service is not limited to his local community but extends to national efforts under the leadership of Autism Speaks.

Make a Wish Foundation: Elijah Winfrey is a volunteer for the Make a Wish Foundation in Alaska and Washington State. Eli Winfrey was interviewed for an article for the charity called, "What does the Number 23 Mean to You" (Make a Wish Foundation, 8/15/2013).

Talkin Autism with Lisa and Eli: Eli Winfrey is the co-host of Talkin Autism With Lisa and Eli. You can access previous shows of Talking Autism on

Website: Be sure and visit the Elijah Winfrey website at to learn more about his work. On his website you can learn about autism and golfing, as well as read his blog.

Social Media: You can follow Elijah Winfrey on the following social media areas.
Special thanks to Elijah Winfrey for being an Autism Light. The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. will live on in perpetuity as long as individuals like Elijah Winfrey commit their lives to service. And the burden of autism will be lighter for many when like Elijah Winfrey our service is dedicated to autism. We expect to continue to hear exciting things in the future about the impact of Elijah Winfrey's service for autism. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo in this post of Elijah Winfrey was used with permission of Elijah Winfrey.
The photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. in this post is in the Creative Commons of Wikipedia and is from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

JP Morgan Chase

Autism Light #333 is JP Morgan Chase & Company.

JP Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) is a banking and financial services company that was founded in 1799, in New York, New York by JP Morgan, starting as the Manhattan Bank. The corporation does business currently under the name of Chase and in 2000 it's companies became known as JP Morgan Chase & Company. Chase is the largest bank in the United States in terms of assets. Beginning on January 1, 2014, Chase started offering the autism insurance benefit to it's employees who have children with autism. Since Chase's medical plan is self-insured they are not required by any law to offer this. JP Morgan Chase is an Autism Light for it's voluntary assistance to autism families who are employed at their corporation by offering autism coverage in their employee health insurance plans.

Stephen Cutler, who serves as General Counsel at Chase and an Advisor to Access Ability, the Business Resource Group for Chase employees affected by disabilities, said this about the announcement.
JP Morgan Chase is excited to offer ABA Therapy and provide this important treatment alternative for the children of our employees. One in 88 children is diagnosed with Autism. With almost 160,000 employees enrolled in our U.S. medical plan, we are confident that this important new offering will change the lives of many of our employees (Business Wire, JP Morgan Chase Adds Autism Benefits to Employee Health Plans, November 26, 2013).

The following video presentation explains the business of JP Morgan Chase.

Bernadette Ulissi Branosky, JPMorgan's head of benefits, said, "Adding this type of benefit has been the biggest request we've heard from employees in recent years, and the outpouring of gratitude has been overwhelming (Reuters, JP Morgan, other employers move to cover costly autism therapies (December 16, 2013)."

The following are links to news stories on JP Morgan Chase offering autism insurance for it's employees.

Twitter: You can follow Chase at their Twitter for Chase @Chase.

Wikipedia: You can learn more about Chase at their Wikipedia Page.

Special thanks to JP Morgan Chase for being an Autism Light and providing autism insurance for the families of it's employees. They are setting an example for other Fortune 500 companies to make a difference for by providing employee autism insurance, even when it is not legally required. We hope one day soon it will be commonplace for every insurance plan in the United States to have coverage for autism. 

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

Note: Autism Light is a neutral blog and the author of this blog post received no goods or services for writing this. While the author is a customer of Chase Bank, that relationship started prior to the company offering this autism benefit in their health plan.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Toni Braxton

Autism Light #332 is Toni Braxton. 

Toni Braxton is 46 years old and from Beverly Hills, California. Toni Braxton is a singer and actress and an autism mother. Her youngest son Diezel, who is now 9, has autism. Toni Braxton is an Autism Light for her advocacy for autism and her dedication as an autism mother.

Toni Braxton is an "American R&B singer-songwriter, pianist, musician, record producer, actress, television personality, and philanthropist. Braxton has won 6 Grammy Awards, 7 American Music Awards and 9 Billboard Music Awards. Throughout the years, she has sold over 66 million records worldwide (Wikipedia, Toni Braxton, 1/6/2013) ."

In 2011 Toni Braxton told OK Magazine this about how she reacted to becoming an autism mother.
It’s been rewarding to see how he’s grown, but I remember when I first found out. I remember blaming myself; I thought it was my fault. I wish I knew what triggered it. Still, often, as a mom, I blame myself. I didn’t take my vitamins every day … maybe it was the medications I was on before I got pregnant.” 
They haven’t figured out what triggers it, but whatever it is, I don’t care, find a cure. Help my kid; help all the other kids. But I had to shake myself off, and go ‘enough about me,’ and make sure my kid’s OK. Once they diagnosed him, we were able to itemize the issues (Toni Braxton, OK Magazine, April 4, 2011).
Autism Speaks: The following is the Ad Council spot that Toni Braxton did for Autism Speaks.

Lupus: Three years ago Toni Braxton revealed that she has the autoimmune disease, Lupus (Essence, November 18, 2010). Toni Braxton said, "My doctors told me I would never be able to perform again. I'm very lucky that I'm still able to dabble in it a little bit (USA Today, February 6, 2013)." In addition to advocating for autism awareness, Toni Braxton helps raise awareness about Lupus.

Braxton Family Values: Toni Braxton stars in the reality television show called Braxton Family Values that airs on WE TV.  Braxton Family Values has been on the air since 2011.

Twist of Faith: Toni Braxton starred with David Julian Hirsch in the Lifetime TV movie Twist of Faith that aired on February 9, 2013. Toni's autistic son Diezel made his acting debut with a role in Twist of Faith with his mother. Here is a scene from the movie where she sings her song This Very Moment. 

Singer: Toni Braxton is known as one of the greatest R&B singers of all time. Dominique Carson at the Celebrity Cafe wrote an informative article on Toni Braxton's Top Ten Songs of All-Time that includes links to song videos on YouTube where available (The Celebrity Cafe, Top 10 Toni Braxton Songs, March 8, 2013)

The following is a message about autism by Toni Braxton at a Hollywood event sponsored by Lindt of Switzerland.

More Information: For more information on Toni Braxton visit her website at or check out the Toni Braxton Wikipedia Page.

Social Media: You can follow Toni Braxton on the following social media areas. There are over 1 million followers of her verified Twitter account. 
Special thanks for Toni Braxton for being an Autism Light and using her celebrity status to be an advocate for autism. Her talent as a musician/entertainer is without question, and it is all the more remarkable as she balances that with being an autism mother who has Lupus. We look forward to hearing more amazing things from Toni Braxton in the future.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

The photo of Toni Braxton is in the Public Domain