Pathfinders for Autism and M&M Boat Sales & Service are looking for Baltimore football fans and boat lovers to help them raise money to support people with autism, their families and their caregivers.
The two organizations combined forces to create the Baltimore Football Fan Boat Raffle, the grand prize of which is a boat designed with a Baltimore football theme. The winner, who will be selected Jan. 26, 2014, will have the option of receiving a $10,000 cash prize instead of accepting the boat.
The Baltimore football fan boat is a 1986 Chris Craft 222 with center steering. Mike Fierstein, owner of M&M Boat Sales & Service, said his team had been restoring the boat for two years. Fierstein credited Venture Trailers, Beacon Light Marina, C & M Custom Boat Service, Signs in One Day, Cogar Printing, and Clear and Present Plastics for helping his team at M&M Boat Sales & Service with this project.
In the process of working on the boat, the M&M Boat Sales & Service crew decided to use the boat to help a local charity. Fierstein said it was his friend Chris Pine, whose son has autism, who suggested using the boat to benefit Pathfinders for Autism.
"It's blown us away since we started this how many people are affected with autism," Fierstein said, "whether it be themselves personally and/or a family member, a friend. Everyone knows someone with it."
Former Oriole B.J. Surhoff and his wife, Polly, were part of the group of parents of children with autism who founded Pathfinders for Autism, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, in 2000. Pathfinders for Autism is based in Maryland and focuses on finding service providers accessible by Maryland residence, but executive director Rebecca Rienzi said the staff did get calls from people around the country, as well as some international calls.
"We're helping individuals with autism and their parents/caregivers find the appropriate services that that child or adult might need," Rienzi said. "That's the cornerstone of our organization is our resource center. … [The Pathfinders for Autism staff] will help them navigate the lifespan of any issue that they might be facing, whether the child was just diagnosed or the child is in their 50s."
Rienzi started working for the organization in 2007, when it launched its training program, which she said was a way to educate parents and professionals about behavior management, special education strategies, dietary intervention and other topics related to caring for someone with autism. Pathfinders for Autism also funds recreational activities for 3,000-5,000 families per year, Rienzi said.
"For a lot of families with a loved one with autism, going somewhere like the National Aquarium or to a ball game is really challenging," Rienzi said. "There's crowds. There's noise. There's the expense, and because so much of the treatment for autism is not covered by insurance, parents spend a lot of money out of pocket for specialists, and they just don't have the extra funds for what most families might take for granted.
"On top of that, there's always the other barriers -- the sensory overload, other patrons at the venue may not respond favorably or understand why a child might be acting some way -- so a lot of families tend to isolate themselves. … We work with the venue to reduce as many of these barriers as we can."
To fund these programs, Pathfinders for Autism relies primarily on private donations, special-event revenue and a private foundation grant, Rienzi said.
"[The boat raffle] wasn't something that we were planning or ever even thought about before February of this year," Rienzi said. "But then we get a call, and I was like, 'OK, well we'll give this a try.' It's a beautiful boat, and Mike was very generous and enthusiastic about it."
The boat is often stationed at Hightopps Backstage Grille in Timonium, and it will be displayed at some other locations before the raffle drawing, Fierstein said. Raffle tickets are $50 each, and there is no limit to how many tickets one person can buy.
Tickets will be available for purchase until 12:59 p.m. Jan. 26, 2014, and the drawing will be held at 3 p.m. that day at the Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show, which is being held Jan. 23-26, 2014, at the Baltimore Convention Center.
The raffle entrants do not have to be present to win one of the prizes. The second-place prize is a Carolina Skiff J14, which Beacon Light Marina donated, and Pathfinders for Autism is also offering a third prize, Fierstein said.
Raffle tickets have been on sale since June, and as of Nov. 11, Rienzi said there were about 300 tickets sold. Fierstein said he was looking for volunteers to help sell tickets, because the minimum number of tickets to sell for this raffle is 750.
"If we do not sell 750 ... [the raffle] will revert back to a 50-50 -- 50 percent of the profits go to Pathfinders, 50 percent goes to the winner," Fierstein said, "and we still will be drawing a second-place winner. So no matter what, we will have a drawing at the boat show Jan. 26."
To get more information or purchase raffle tickets, visit PathfindersForAutism.org, call Pathfinders for Autism at 443-330-5370, or contact Mike Fierstein at email@example.com or 410-627-7818.