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12-3-14-fireantz-host.gifAccording to the National Institutes of Health: Experts estimate that 1 out of 88 children age 8 will have an ASD(Autism Spectrum Disorder). Males are four times more likely to have an ASD than females. In 1997, at the request of Congress, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) formed its Autism Coordinating Committee (NIH/ACC) to enhance the quality, pace and coordination of efforts at the NIH to find a cure for autism (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-pervasive-developmental-disorders/nih-initiatives/nih-autism-coordinating-committee.shtml).

Known for supporting great causes, the FireAntz are stepping up to help the Autism Society of Cumberland County. On Dec. 13, the Fayetteville FireAntz will host Autism Awareness Night at the Crown. As part of this initiative, the team has adopted honorary team member Caleb Johnson. Ten-year-old Johnson hails from Cumberland County and is a big fan of the team. As the FireAntz take the ice against the Hunstville Havoc, the team will sport special jerseys that will be auctioned off at the end of the game. A portion of the proceeds will go to support the Autism Society of Cumberland County. For the Dec. 13 game only, the team will adjust the lighting and PA system to create an atmosphere that will accommodate those in attendance that have autism.

Johnson’s family has experienced the generosity of the FireAntz on a very personal level. “Caleb’s daddy is friends with Kevin (McNaught), the general manager for the FireAntz, so we always went to the games and my son really got into the hockey,” said Tammy Walters, Caleb’s Mom. “Caleb is not a person who likes to be in a crowd and he was slowly introduced to the arena and the game. One time we took him in and he met the players. Another time he went in and touched the ice. It was a very gradual process. This is the only place where Caleb he doesn’t have problems with crowds. This has also helped him in other ways. It has made it easier for him to be in a crowd when we go to other places like restaurants.”

Walters also noted how compassionate and patient the players were when they were introduced to Caleb. “Sometimes Caleb repeats things five or six times when he is talking. They all took their time and went out of their way to be nice to my child and answer any questions we had.”

“On behalf of the team, we’re extremely excited to support a cause so dear to our hearts ,” Fayetteville FireAntz General Manager Kevin McNaught said. “It’s important to us to give back and support the members of the community that have given us so much over the years. We look forward to the continued growth of this program for years to come.”

The mission of the Autism Society of Cumberland County is to provide support and promote opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals within the autism spectrum and their families. Through programs and activities, the organization seeks to inform and educate parents/caregivers and professionals by providing referral, resource information and opportunities for families. By collaborating with other organizations in the community the Autism Society of Cumberland County helps pair families with appropriate services. Support groups, support parents and parent education programs make things easier for family members because it gives them a chance to meet other families facing the same struggles as well as meet professionals in the community.

“No matter how you look at it, having a child with any level of Autism Spectrum Disorder is a gift,” said Walters. “They are an amazing gift from God. They are so special.”

Find out more about the FireAntz at www.fireantzhockey.com. Learn more about the Autism Society of Cumberland County at http://www.autismcc.org.

Photo:  The FireAntz are set to host Autism Awareness night, complete with commemorative jerseys.

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