Temple Grandin – Belle of the Ball

21 Sep

Temple Grandin

On September 11, I had the rare black-tie night out.  I attended the Pegasus Ball benefitting the Autism Treatment Center in Dallas as a guest of HBO, which co-sponsored the event.  Held at the Fairmont Hotel in the Dallas Arts District, the ballroom was gorgeous.  Fluffy white hydrangea—the size of volleyballs—decorated tables.  The women in their va-va-voom gowns sparkled every bit as brightly as their bling.  The food was sublime!  (I tormented my husband—who was home with the kids—by texting snapshots of the various courses to him.  Evil am I.)

None of that packed the emotional punch of Temple Grandin, Robert Duvall (in a taped message from Argentina) and the other speakers.  Straight off rocking the Emmy’s, Temple Grandin (arguably the most famous person in America on the Autism Spectrum) told the crowd of 600 about her experiences growing up.  How her mother and the rest of her family fought for her when professionals in every discipline recommended institutionalization.  How music helps her stay calm and centered to this day.  How we as a nation must address the needs of the post-secondary disabled population, from work programs to specialized nursing homes.  Grandin has the flat voice of many of those with the diagnosis, but she conveys her passion.  The standing ovation lasted five minutes if not more!

I found myself choking up as Bobby Norris, the event’s founder, took to the podium.  He has a 28-year-old daughter with autism and began raising money for the Autism Treatment Center two decades ago.  What started out as a rodeo has blossomed into a week of events around the Metroplex, which included cattle sorting, golf tournaments, VIP receptions and the Ball.  All told he has personally raised and donated millions.  What a beautiful legacy for his daughter!

While the final total for Pegasus Ball has yet to be announced, it should be between $250,000 and $400,000—impressive considering the state of the economy.  That money funds programs at the Autism Treatment Center, a wonderful facility in North Dallas that runs a school for kids on the spectrum.  ATC also has adult day programs and maintains 14 group homes around the city.  I hope our 14-year-old daughter, Paige, who has autism, will eventually attend school there.  Dr. Carolyn Garver, the clinical director, is a miracle worker.  She and her team have spent 35 years transforming the lives of those in her care.  Autism is their passion.  One way or another, my family benefits from that.

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