Showbizzers know how to network, and they know how to raise big bucks for worthy causes. Those skills have coalesced during the past decade around the alarming rise in the number of children on the autism spectrum.
The outpouring of industry support for autism medical research and advocacy will be on display Saturday at the Rose Bowl during the 10th annual Los Angeles Walk Now for Autism Speaks fundraiser.
Autism Speaks stages walk events throughout the country. The single-largest contributor to those walks is the L.A. team organized by WME’s Ari Greenburg and his wife, Andrea Lee, after their son Tyler was diagnosed. Over the past six years, Team Greenbean has raised more than $1 million, with $330,448 coming in last year alone from 1,390 donors.
The coin generated through industry channels is vital, but equally important is the network of support that has blossomed in industry circles for parents faced with navigating a daunting maze of doctors and therapists as they search for the right mix of services for conditions that vary widely. Everybody, it seems, knows someone who has been touched by the brain disorder.
“There’s an extraordinary awareness out there,” says WME’s Cori Wellins. “I’ve had so many people call me and say, ‘I heard you have a son on the spectrum, what can you tell me?’ I love being able to share information.”
Before they were colleagues at WME, Wellins reached out to Greenburg four years ago when her son Luke was diagnosed. Now Wellins is a co-captain of Team Greenbean, along with 20th Century Fox TV exec Lisa Katz, and the two drive tens of thousands of dollars in donations each year for the team.
Evan Corday, a manager at Evolution Entertainment, launched Team Greyson this year and will walk with her 4-year-old twin boys, Greyson, who was diagnosed two years ago, and Riley. The referrals she received from biz friends helped her sort through the challenges, financial and otherwise, of seeking treatment for her son.
Autism “is a full-blown epidemic,” Corday says. “I can’t solve it, but I can raise money to fund the research. We’ve already raised over $5,000, and we’ve got 16 people walking with us.”