As another year comes to an end, we look back at what we have been through and what we have accomplished. This year, more than any other, we should give ourselves a little (or maybe big) pat on the back for making it through. COVID-19 has thrown all of us some unexpected curve balls. Nonetheless, we are happy to report we’ve remained hard at work serving the autism community without interruption throughout the year.
We’ve introduced new programs and even have some exciting end-of-year news. OAR’s Board of Directors has stepped up to the COVID-19 challenge by committing to match the first $90,000 in donations we receive in this year’s Annual Campaign. That means your donation could be doubled! First, though, let us tell you a bit more about what we’ve done.
Earlier this year, we launched the Autism Education Program, which offers small grants to schools and community groups using OAR’s Kit for Kids peer education resources to further promote autism awareness and acceptance among students in grades K–8. Since April, OAR has awarded eight new grants to schools and community programs across the United States, many of which were modified to take place during COVID-19. Brooke, a recent volunteer youth education leader demonstrated the amazing potential of the Kit for Kids program by adapting it to a virtual setting in summer camps earlier this year. In her words, “I had my first two sessions today and it went wonderfully! I was very impressed by the kids’ eagerness to read and participate.”
It’s not just OAR’s Kit for Kids program finding success during the COVID-19 pandemic. Late last year, OAR introduced the Hire Autism Navigator program designed to offer trained volunteers to help our Hire Autism job seekers with their resumes, cover letters, and the job search in general. The program was essential to offering Hire Autism nationally. In January, when OAR launched Hire Autism nationwide, our navigators gave OAR the capacity to maintain a level of hands-on support with job seekers. As of today, OAR has 19 navigators, who have helped more than 84 job seekers. As one job seeker, Allison, reports, “My experience working with a Hire Autism navigator… very much exceeded my expectations. Each week, I was really able to make strides towards my career goals and I was able to stay motivated and organized with the help of a navigator.”
COVID-19 has caused mental, emotional, physical, and financial strain for many of us this year, including OAR. This is why your sustained support means so much. With the support of the autism community, OAR has continued to provide resources to self-advocates and their families, educators, and caregivers, including an online page offering COVID-19 specific information. The examples shared above not only speak to OAR’s strength and commitment in the face of this pandemic, but also reflect well on all of our supporters.
You will be happy to know that some things have not changed. OAR continues to be one of the few charities ranked both as a Four-Star Charity by Charity Navigator and a Top-Rated Nonprofit by Great Nonprofits. So, you can donate with confidence, knowing that $0.83 of every dollar we spend goes toward the mission. Please donate via credit card online or mail a check to Organization for Autism Research, 2111 Wilson Blvd., Suite 401, Arlington, VA, 22201.