BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — By the time the band Arctic Clam finished a rousing rendition of “Who Are You” from one of the most celebrated bands in history – The Who – those attending Acoustics for Autism had handed over nearly $12,000 to support the cause.
The donations during that particular song came from a cash grab challenge in which the Paul Szymanski charity presented a check for $7,500 and the beir tent crowd dropped over $4,000 into the buckets being passed around.
Jeff Greeno, who spoke on behalf of the Szymanski family, said that contributing funds to the organization was important because the Szymanskis have a family member with autism.
The 12th annual Acoustics for Autism took place last Sunday in uptown Maumee, drawing thousands of people and raising thousands more to support Project iAm, which provides funding for autism services. While it is too early to know exactly how much was raised, event organizers believe they may have exceeded the goal of netting $60,000 this year.
“Each year, the main job is to get our costs covered. Then we know that everything we make at the event goes to the families that need it,” said festival organizer Scott Hayes.
To keep costs down, many companies either donate services and equipment or offer those things at a discounted rate. Clear View Tinting also served as a presenting sponsor this year by making a $7,500 donation. There is no cost to attend the event, so in addition to sponsorship donations, other money is raised through beer sales, silent auction items and donation buckets.
“It’s really important to us to keep the event free,” said Hayes. “We want everyone to have access to the event and would never want cost to prevent someone from enjoying the music.”
Acoustics for Autism is 100-percent volunteer-driven with funding that supports families in the Northwest Ohio area and this year, 68 bands donated their time to perform on seven stages.
“The amount of talent we have musically in this area is big. I have been saying that for years,” said Hayes. “I have traveled all over the country and I would put our music scene up against about anyone, and we’re philanthropic, too.”
Julie and Dan Mangotic of Whitehouse brought their children to not only hear the music, but also to enjoy the children’s activities, including face painting and crafts, that were taking place at the Northern Lights Lodge
“My husband is a music man and he wanted to come out and hear all of the bands,” Julie said.
For the past six years, Kim Steinbock and Jenny Reese have volunteered at the event. Both women are teachers in the Toledo Public School District and say that helping autistic children get the services they need is vital to their well-being.
“We see the benefits that all of this brings those families that need the extra help,” Steinbock said.
For Reese, it was more personal.
“Both my niece and nephew are autistic and this helps bring awareness to it,” she said.
Maumee City Council member Scott Noonan was also on hand with elected officials from the city of Toledo, including Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and Toledo City Council president Matt Cherry. Noonan joined Cherry in donating $1,000 to Project iAm.
“Obviously, as an individual with a disability, I have great admiration for the people who organize an event like this,” Noonan said.
Noonan was born with Goldenhar syndrome, a rare congenital defect characterized by facial abnormalities and other physical issues.
“I support anything like this that raises awareness and support for people with a disability,” he said.
Village Idiot owner John Schafer has seen the event grow every year since it began in his bar.
“This was the best one yet, and there is room for the event to grow,” he said.