Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Doug Flutie Makes A Difference for Autism

When quarterback Doug Flutie retired this week after 21 seasons of professional football, it was big sports news in Boston, where Flutie grew up and played his Heisman Trophy-winning college football. After the gracious retirement remarks by Flutie and the testimonials by New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft came a nugget that drew our attention: a $22,000 donation by Kraft to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.

The foundation is named for Flutie's son, who has autism. Flutie and his wife Laurie started raising money in 1998 and established the foundation in 2000 "to provide families with a place to turn when they are in need of support and autism resources." The foundation raises money to provide grants to non-profit organizations and so far have awarded close to $3 million in the United States and Canada. This upcoming weekend, for example, Doug Flutie and his Flutie Brothers Band is playing a benefit at The Center for Arts in Natick on Saturday night. On Sunday, the foundation is holding a 5-kilometer road race.

The foundation has been a meaningful supporter of the Autism Alliance of MetroWest, making possible activities like a kite-flying festival in the spring, and open gym sessions in the winter. These are activities that draw families and their kids with all kinds of autism spectrum disorders to safe, welcoming environments -- no small consideration when you're looking for a constructive way to spend free time together. The Alliance has even prepared a video to help train first responders such as police and firefighters how to deal with autistic kids.

The host of the video? Doug Flutie.

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