Meridian Star

April 13, 2014

Getting creative for Arts for Autism

By Michael Stewart / editor@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     About 60 autistic children from Clarke and Lauderdale counties will be selling their artwork outside the Dollar General on Highway 19 South on Saturday, April 19, during the Art for Autism event to celebrate April's designation as Autism Month.

    The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    All proceeds from the sale of the art will benefit Autism Speaks, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and possible cure for autism.

    Up to 150 children with autism are expected to attend. In addition to the art that will be for sale, the children will participate in a sidewalk art drawing exhibition. Hotdogs, pizza, cotton candy and sodas will be available.

    There will be a bounce house and other children's activities and members of the Snell Volunteer Fire Department and the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department will be on hand to participate.

    "We would really like to make this a big event and we want to make sure that these special kids have an awesome day," Dollar General Manager Kelly Street said. "We are looking to local organizations, businesses and churches to help get the word out and offer support."

    Since 2010, Dollar General stores nationwide have hosted events for Autism Speaks. According to the discount retailer's website, more than $3.4 million has been donated to Autism Speaks since that time.

    "Autism Speaks is thrilled to kick off Autism Awareness Month in April with the support once again of Dollar General,” said Alec M. Elbert, Autism Speaks’ chief strategy and development officer. “We share a commitment with Dollar General to extend help and hope to our community and we are most grateful for their continuing support and leadership.”

    Individual Dollar General stores can choose to participate in the annual fundraiser.

    Street said employees at her store had been under a lot of stress with inventory and they thought the event would be a fun way to unwind and give something back to the community.

    Street reached out to local school districts and special needs classes. The response was great, she said, adding that some of the artwork the children will have for sale is impressive.

    "It isn't just paintings," Street said. "There is one 10 year old who created Lego sculptures. Another girl made bracelets and there are some clay pots that are decorated that are really good."

    While festivities begin at 11 a.m., the artwork sale will be from 2-5 p.m.

    According to the Autism Speaks website, "Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

    "ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art."

    The street address for the Dollar General is 2405 Highway 19 South.

    And while the fundraiser is for a serious cause, the main focus will be on the children.

    "We want to get the community involved and we want this to be a fun day for the kids, that's the main thing," Street said.

Parents of autistic

children can call Kelly Street at

601-701-8364 if their child would like to contribute artwork for the Art for Autism event on April 19.