By Aaron Retherford
The Autism Puzzle Foundation in Barre is getting ready to celebrate its 10th Annual Benefit Dinner on April 11, its largest fundraiser of the year.
APF provides grants to different organizations that provide services to children with autism such as horseback riding therapy, iPads, and summer camps. The organization gives six grants a month, which have totaled over $331,000 and benefited more than 600 kids during its nine-plus years of existence.
The Chair of the APF Board, Randy Lamberti, has a niece with autism. At the beginning, it was Lamberti, his father, and Suzanna LaGue, who has a grandson with autism. The three met for breakfast one day and decided to hold a fundraiser with a goal of raising $5,000. The group ended up raising around $11,000.
“From there, things really started to take off,” Lamberti said. “At the time, all the money was going to the national organization. After that first year, we added other board members and became our own foundation, so we filed with the state for 501(c)(3) status, rather than doing a fundraiser and sending the money off.”
The Autism Puzzle Foundation is an all-volunteer organization with a mission of: changing the way society views individuals with disabilities, creating a comfortable place for those on the autism spectrum, and supporting autism research efforts.
That’s why the major fundraiser is important.
Tickets for the dinner and casino night at the Barre Auditorium are $125, which includes two dinners and $150 worth of poker chips. There will also be silent and live auctions with typically over 200 prizes. Doors open at 5 p.m. Dinner will follow at 6 p.m. Every ticket has the chance to win a cash prize along with other prizes. Grand prizes in the past have included trips to Ireland or Aruba, and a NASCAR package.
Lamberti said the group raises an average of $40,000 from the night, so it’s a large portion of its annual funding. He expects 300-350 in attendance. Space is limited. Attendees are asked to RSVP by April 8.