Former Cincinnati Bengals greats huddled Sunday in Fairfield to help tackle the challenges parents of special needs adults face daily and in the future.
Led by NFL MVP and Bengal star quarterback Ken Anderson, the 8th Autism Rocks benefit event raised money, awareness and the spirits of adults with disabilities, their parents and friends.
“Our goal is to really enhance the live, work and play options for those with developmental disabilities, mainly adults,” said Anderson, over the din of live music and excited families at the Fairfield Banquet & Convention Center at Tori’s Station.
Anderson, who has a nephew living with severe autism, said events like Sunday’s are a more high-profile way of trying to eventually create a residential community for adults living with autism and other disabilities. That community would also house their parents to better ease the transition for their children once those parents pass on.
“Our goal is by 2021 is to have a (local) community built. A lot of adults with mental disabilities still live at home and the big concern is, what happens when the parents are no longer here?” said Anderson.
“We are working for a community option where they will be safe and their parents won’t have to worry about anything,” he said.
According to the U.S. Census report “Disability and American Families,” autism impacts one in every 88 American children and 40 percent of children with autism do not talk.
The lifetime cost for an individual with autism is estimated to be $3.2 million.
Among the other former Bengals at the event were Louis Breeden, Kevin Walker, Jim Breech, Barney Bussey, Ira Hillary and Rick Razzano.
Pat Paolino, president of the Ken Anderson Alliance, took a break from enjoying the music, food and sports memorabilia raffle with his son Ryan — a sophomore at Loveland High School who lives with mosaic Down syndrome — to talk about what it means to those attending.
“This event is about raising money to make a reality of our vision to create a live, work and play community for adults with disabilities,” said Paolino.
Cincinnati Reds and Fox Sports TV announcer Jeff Piecoro came with his autistic teenage son, Nick.
“This is a huge event for us and it’s our third year of coming here,” said Piecoro. “This is one of the four big fundraisers we have each year and the people of Fairfield have been fantastic and it has grown every year.”
“My son here is 24 years old and the biggest fear of parents with kids of special needs is the fact of what happens when we are gone? That’s the biggest problem I see across the country is that autism is exploding and more people with special needs and there is just no place for them to go,” he said.
For more information and to donate, go to Ken Anderson Alliance, Creating Opportunities For Adults With Disabilities at: www.facebook.com/KenAndersonAlliance
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