BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Thousands came out last Sunday for the 13th annual Acoustics for Autism.
The event, which supports families of individuals with autism, is one of the largest free music festivals in the area.
“My husband’s band plays and we come out every year to support this,” said Andrea Altenburg, of Sylvania, who was spending time in the kids’ area with their 7-year-old son Robert. “I think it’s great to see so many people coming together for a good cause.”
The event continues to grow and event organizers anticipated 11,000 in attendance. Last year’s event raised over $120,000 to support families of individuals with autism. Project iAm, the nonprofit organization behind the music festival, has no paid staff, offices, cars or cell phones. All of the money raised supports those families.
Over 300 volunteers are needed to run the event. Heidi Bleyer is among the many who have made it a mission to help each year.
“As children with autism grow and become more independent, it makes huge impacts on their whole families’ lives,” she said. “We want to give them the best possible opportunities that they can have.”
This year, a record-number 80 bands performed on seven stages, with 20 more on the waiting list. They donated their talent to perform 35- to 45-minute sets. The musicians performed on stages in The Village Idiot, Buster Brown’s Lounge, the bier garden, a silent auction tent, the kids’ area, the Maumee Elks and Small Box Music.
Katie Meyer, the owner of Buster Brown’s Big Dog Lounge, said that it was the best turnout in the event’s 13-year history.
“Everything went well, the entertainment was excellent and the crowd was great. They were happy to be there and support the event,” she said.
Meyer and her staff put in a long 18-hour day, not to mention the amount of time and effort it took to get ready for the event.
“It was a lot of work, but it was amazing,” she said.
Nicole Khoury, who founded Acoustics for Autism, isn’t yet sure how much money was raised this year, but she summed up the meaning behind the event by sharing a message that a young autistic adult posted on social media.
She wrote, “The acceptance is amazing. The event is not only fun and raises money, but it also shows families newer to autism that they aren’t in this alone, which is huge. Plus, it teaches the whole community and it melts my heart each year to see the love and acceptance.”