By Linda Chion
For years Tanya Hines entertained the idea of starting an alliance for parents and caregivers of children or adults on the autism spectrum. This year’s second annual Trunk-or-Treat event is a testament to that dream realized.
Launched with her husband, James, and her son’s occupational therapist at the time, Amanda Grozdanic, the nonprofit Experienced Autism Alliance is set to use the proceeds from food sold at the Saturday, October 29 event to further the alliance’s mission.
Outreach is focused on connecting families to resources and caretakers living the life of autism care and advocacy. Also, to share safety measures and to promote inclusion and awareness, all of which Hines has experience with as a mother with a 17-year-old nonverbal son with profound autism.
“Fifteen years ago, when my son was diagnosed, I had to do a lot of work finding therapists, doctors and social activities for him within the Tampa Bay area,” Hines said. “For years I wanted to be able to have a one-stop shop for information, to connect families to local resources and to share my experiences.”
That one-stop shop is Experienced Autism Alliance, which last year received a grant to purchase 100 scent kits, which are used to help law enforcement canine units find missing loved ones. To distribute free kits, the alliance held its first Trunk-or-Treat.
“The event was a lot of fun, so this year we amped it up a little bit for everyone,” Hines said.
Scheduled are the Florida Foam Factory, a DJ, bounce houses, a dedicated sensory zone, candy-bearing vendors, games and Star Wars characters set to pose.
“We really want to bring people together, where the autism community can feel welcome and everyone’s just having a good time together and no one feels left out,” Hines said.
The cost for vendors is $25 per spot. The 3-6 p.m. Riverview event is set for October 29 in South Pointe, located at 10520 Southern Pointe Blvd. For vendor information, email Hines, the alliance’s executive director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Experienced Autism Alliance, visit www.autismalliancefl.org.