Thursday, January 24, 2013

"All In" for Kids Poker Tournament Benefits CHOP's Autism Research and Care Programs


On Thursday, January 17th, 2013, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) hosted the “All In” for Kids Poker Tournament at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. This annual tournament, hosted by poker legend Phil Hellmuth, brings together celebrities, athletes, and professional poker players with Hospital Trustees, donors, and grateful families for an exciting and worthwhile evening to benefit Children's Hospital. This year, the beneficiary of the tournament was the Hospital’s autism research and care programs. 

We would like to give a special thank you to the event’s Honorary Chairs, Susan and Don Wenger. The Wengers became involved with CHOP’s autism program after their grandson was red-flagged for  an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at a visit to his pediatrician. The Wengers have provided financial support to help realize the Center for Autism Research’s goal of creating a Roadmap for Autism. The Roadmap will be a comprehensive website providing families with accurate information about ASD, directories of service providers at CHOP and elsewhere, and information ASD families will need at various stages of life. With so much information available on the internet, CAR hopes this will be a good starting point for reliable information for families who need help finding their way.

At the Poker Tournament, Susan Wenger welcomed the crowd and shared her story:

I know that each one of us here tonight has a different reason for attending this event. Possibly you are supporting a family member, friend or co-worker or maybe you simply enjoy playing poker. I also know that until coming face to face with the possibility of an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis, one may not quite comprehend the conviction to fight this potentially devastating disorder.

Over the years I was certainly aware of Autism, but like so many of us, I already had charities that I was involved with and donated much of my time to… until the day that my daughter came home from my grandchild’s doctor visit – my grandchild had been red flagged for a possible ASD diagnosis.

It was as though our lives had been turned upside down and I did not know how to begin making life better for my beautiful, bright, happy grandchild!

After doing much research and after many meetings and phone calls, it became evident that we were facing a very long journey with many obstacles in our path. How could finding guidance be so difficult and locating the appropriate therapists next to impossible?!

This is when my determination began to provide a clearer path, with easier access to therapists for those families in need. I learned that The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is a national leader in research and caring for Autism Spectrum Disorders. With the help of family members, I was able to raise the funds needed to enable CHOP to develop the much needed Road Map for Autism.

My hope for the future is that NO ONE be given an ASD diagnosis, however, if faced with this diagnosis, I know that the Road Map and the Center for Autism Research will be there to make the journey less stressful and provide the best chance for the brightest future for those with ASD and their families, as well as those like myself who are red-flagged and receiving guidance without a diagnosis.

In the wake of so very many children, 1 in 88, being red flagged for ASD, I do not think that anyone should feel immune to experiencing the frustrations that we have felt while trying to stay afloat!
I am here tonight on behalf of all those affected to thank you for your support, both tonight and especially in the future!!

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