Submitted by: Lorri Unumb, Autism Academy of South Carolina
Many Major League News readers have worked with, served on boards of, run, or founded nonprofit organizations. Those of you who have known the thrill of winning a grant that can change the course of your organization or significantly enhance the overall delivery of your mission.
The Autism Academy of South Carolina got to experience such a thrill when it learned that the Junior League of Columbia, as part of celebrating its 90th year, had awarded the Academy a $90,000 grant! The Autism Academy is using those funds to renovate a historic gymnasium at its new location in downtown Columbia.
The Autism Academy of South Carolina is a year-round center for children with autism spectrum disorder. The Academy employs an intervention known as Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA therapy. This evidence-based intervention is the best hope for children with autism and, if applied intensively and by properly-trained therapists, can change the trajectory of a child’s life.
Part of the ABA-based intervention program at the Autism Academy is a physical exercise program. Many children with disabilities get little, if any, exercise and become physically unhealthy on top of their disabilities. Studies have shown
that children with autism thrive when exercise is incorporated into their daily regimens.
The Autism Academy moved in January into the Eleanor Rice Building at the corner of Bull and Blanding. This building, a former YWCA, includes a wonderful, but totally dilapidated gymnasium/auditorium that is falling deeper into disrepair with each passing year.
The Academy obtained an estimate on renovating the gym of approximately $300,000 and subsequently applied to the JLC for help. The $90,000 grant from the JLC will pay for the first round of work (asbestos removal, roof repair, door replacement, etc.) and will serve as leverage to obtain the remainder of the funds necessary to create a functioning community gymnasium.
Upon completion, the Autism Academy plans to not only use the facility for its own children, but also to organize community basketball leagues involving children with and without disabilities playing together. The gym will also be available for other Columbia-area non-profits looking for auditorium or gymnasium space.
The Autism Academy is forever grateful to the members of the Junior League for helping us realize our dream. Please come visit us at any time during our open hours (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) and watch us revitalize this historic property!