What inspired you to start your non-profit?
The idea for the company was inspired by something my son and I experienced in
2018. My son, Rio, is nonverbal autistic. I took him to eat at a local pizza restaurant
where I had gone for years and years. The restaurant was busy, and it took forever for
us to be seated, then another eternity for us to get our pizza. Rio eventually had a
meltdown due to sensory overload. Screaming, banging his head on the table, you
name it. The other customers started giving us dirty looks, then started yelling at both
me and my son.
Eventually, the restaurant kicked us out because we were causing a “disturbance.” I
remember thinking, “Why can’t people just be nice? Why can’t they just be kind?” I
wondered how the restaurant and other customers would have reacted had they
known Rio was autistic.
I went home feeling incredibly defeated. But... I woke up the next morning and was
ready to make a change. That was the ultimate call to action. I immediately started
working, knowing that I wanted to change the negative narratives about children
with autism–that autistic children are brats, and their parents don’t have control.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your founder journey?
Being a voice for the voiceless, especially in South Carolina. There are so few resources
and advocates for ASD and ND children, and they’re often completely overlooked in
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs. We aim to change that–and it’s working.
In general, children on the spectrum don’t get to be a part of Christmas festivities. It’s
a sensory nightmare: crowds, noise, bright lights. So, in December of 2022, we held an
event where 300 autistic and neuro-divergent kids got to meet Santa for the first time.
It was beautiful.
In April of 2023, we made Mt Pleasant, South Carolina’s first autism-friendly city in the
Lowcountry. Mayor Haynie was incredible throughout that process.