Updates on Cure Autism Now Activity | 1996 – 1999 #AutisticHistory

[Note: Shared for #AutisticHistory archive purposes. This is NOT An Autistic Ally.]


We’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the highlights of CAN’s first four years of operation. Many of these are milestones that would have been unheard of just a few short years ago. All of them are thanks to the unending support and dedication of thousands of families, friends, scientists, researchers, corporations, and foundations across the country and internationally. People who believe, as we do, that there is hope for a better future for people with autism. 

Political Action: 

CAN helped to introduce new and improved federal autism legislation that mandates over $40 million new dollars a year for biological research in autism, a national family and physician education and awareness program, and a major new effort to study prevalence. Endorsed by CAN, the ASA and NAAR, it combines and unites all past efforts and is the single most important piece of legislation ever proposed for autism.

On May 9, 2000 this autism legislation within the Childrens Health Bill passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 419 to 2. We stand a very good chance of getting autism research legislation passed in the Senate. To find out more about how you can make a critical difference click here to go directly to Action Alert Page or call 1-877-4CANACT.


“Facing Autism 1999” was the theme of a Hillsborough, California fundraiser held on the evening of March 25th – and what an incredible evening it was. Thanks to the efforts of co-chairs Merton and Marva Hanks and Nanci and Gary Fredkin, a dedicated event committee, and celebrity supporters including Anthony Edwards, Rene Russo, Jerry Rice, Randal Cunningham and Merton Hanks, over a quarter of a million dollars was raised for CAN’s research, education and outreach programs. 

The dedication and commitment to helping children and families with autism truly spans from coast to coast. On March 6th parents Brian and Doreen Kerwin and host of wonderful and amazingly driven volunteers put on“The Second Annual Autism Awareness Party” in Madison, New Jersey. The evening, which raised over $50,000, was filled with music, friends and fun — but at the heart of it all was a renewed sense of hope for the future. 

CAN’s Scientific Advisory Board met in January 1999 to review grants submitted for our second full funding cycle. A total of 3 new Young Investigator Awards and 5 innovative Pilot Research Projects were funded for a total two year commitment of over $504,556. This brings the total funding for these two critical programs to over $1.17 million. The projects selected represent an excellent mix of subjects from genetics to mouse models and imaging, as well as clinical studies with direct implications for families. The deadline for submission for our next funding cycle is October 1, 1999 with grants being reviewed January 2000. 

Just one year in to the recruitment process, DNA samples from the first 150 multiplex families in the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) – the world’s first collaborative gene bank for autism – are currently being distributed! This is an unprecedented accomplishment and one that is already attracting attention from some of the country’s leading research institutions. And, thanks to this resource, several top of the line researchers are beginning to shift their focus to autism. An additional 250 families have been identified and recruited and, with proper funding, we hope to have them fully processed by the end of 1999. 

Since joining CAN’s Honorary Board early last year, Anthony Edwards, star of the hit series “ER,” has shown his commitment to children with autism in so many ways. He traveled to Washington, D.C. to help introduce the Advancement in Pediatric Autism Research Act, took the helm at our ’98 CAN Cup Event in San Francisco, has attended numerous fundraisers and cocktail parties for CAN scientists, and took our mission on-line and raised over $21,000 as part of Entertainment Asylum’s “Hollywood Gives” series. He also was the force behind a critically important meeting CAN parents and scientists had (on the set of ER) with Senator Frist, Chair of the Senate subcommittee on Health and Human Services. As a result of this meeting Frist has promised to lend his support to increased autism research funding and innovative efforts like AGRE. and All of this, in addition to Anthony’s own incredible $100,000 donation in 1998, has helped to raise substantial funds and invaluable awareness. 

Anthony has increased his involvement with CAN by becoming a full member of CAN’s Board of Directors. Anthony’s special project for creating awareness for autism research is the Team CAN Indy Race Car entry. Please visit http://www.teamcan.org for more information.

Chicago, Illinois was home to our most recent parent and professional conference. Organized by our dedicated IL CAN chapter, the conference, held on March 20th, brought together parents and professionals from across the midwest to obtain information on the latest in autism treatments and research. Speakers included Dr. Vijendra Singh, Dr. James Black, Dr. Ted Page, Maud Dammann, Dr. Jeffrey Kopelson and Dr. Philip Teitelbaum

On January 30th 1999, CAN welcomed the addition of our new Mid-Atlantic Chapter. Headquartered in Potomac, MD this chapter kicked off with a conference attended by over 300 parents and professionals. This chapter held a successful second annual CAN Cup yacht event weekend -called the “Ship of Dreams“fundraiser held May 1st. 

They join already established, and incredibly active, chapters in Paramus, NJ, Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA and Vancouver, B.C. Each of these chapters is run by a group of dedicated parents and volunteers without whom none of the above listed accomplishments would have been possible. For information on how you can become part of any of these chapters, please call the CAN headquarters at 323-549-0500

1998 – 1996 News and Events:

CAN Board Member, parent, and noted pediatrician Dr. Ricki Robinson gave a featured presentation on autismto President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Goreat Vice-President Gore’s 1998 “Family Reunion: Family Empowerment in Healthcare.” 

In 1998, we proudly welcomed Mrs. Leah Rabin as a member of CAN’s Honorary Board. Mrs. Rabin has long been a supporter and activist on behalf of people with autism in Israel, and we are thrilled to have her on board. She joins fellow members Maya Angelou, Anthony Edwards, Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, Congressman Steve Rothman, Congresswoman Marge Roukema, Rene Russo and Donna Williams. 

CAN, the National Institutes of Health, and NAAR joined together in October 1998 for a historic event — the first ever animal model workshop in autism. “Building Animal Models for Autism through Translational Neuroscience Research” brought together world class experts in neuroanatomy, genetics, mouse genetics, primate behavior, brain imaging and developmental biology to formulate a plan for the development of this cutting edge methodology within the field of autism. 

Los Angeles, Southern New Jersey, Chicago and Vancouver were all sites for CAN Celebrity Golf Classics held throughout the summer of 1998. These events were an incredible means of raising both funds and awareness and we were privileged to have the participation of celebrities including Dweezil Zappa, Bill Smitrovich, Matt Adler, Joe Mantegna, Cathy Lee Crosy, Bill Pullman, Jack Scalia, Grant Tinker, Scott Wolf, Ronny Cox and Glen Foley, just to name a few. 

For two years now, the residents of Matteson, IL and surrounding areas have been helping CAN in our race for the cure through participation in the I-CAN 5K Run/Walk for autism. A day of fun, family and fundraising, this year’s event is scheduled for August 21st, 1999! 

Ex- Seattle Mariner Bill Krueger and his wife Jo (parents of Chanel) hosted “A Night for Autism,” a benefit dinner and auction in Seattle on June 20, 1998. CAN was the grateful recipient of all proceeds of this wonderful evening — which netted over $75,000. 

In July 1998, CAN Co-founder Portia Iversen and CAN Scientific Coordinator Dr. Dan Geschwind traveled to Nice, France to participate in a collaborative autism genetics research group meeting sponsored by P.A.R.I.S., the European consortium working on the genetics of autism. 

San Francisco Bay was the site of the 1998 CAN Cup, an extraordinary event put on by One Design 48’s Andrea and John Bertrand. 1999’s event was held May 1, 1999 in Baltimore, Maryland where it was the centerpiece of One Design 48’s Chesapeake Grand Prix and the feature of the Baltimore Waterfront Festival. 

In both 1997 and 1998, the LA Marathon helped to bring us one step closer to the answers. Thanks to the participation of Marc Adelman, President of the California Bar Association, his wife Erin Kenney, Ph.D. and RuthAnn Aull, 1998’s event brought in over $25,000. Guests of the cocktail party held to kick-off the run were Harry Hamlin, NFL Referee Mike Carey, California State Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg and gubernatorial candidate Jane Harmon. 

CAN celebrated its two year anniversary in November 1997 with a cocktail party hosted by CAN Board Member Marianne Lynch and her husband Peter. Honorary Board Member Rene Russo joined us in Pasadena for an evening that helped raise over $200,000 for AGRE. 

In March of 1997, CAN sponsored the first CAN Consensus Conference. This important meeting was held for the urgent purpose of bringing together the top experts in the autism clinical and research communities to establish a consensus statement providing guidelines for a medical work up in autism. In March of 1998, The CAN Consensus was published in CNS Spectrums Journal. This document now serves as a guideline for clinicians and families seeking medical testing and care for individuals with autism. 

AIR FORCE ONE, produced by CAN Co-founder Jonathan Shestack, premiered in July 1997 with a star-studded benefit that raised over $270,000 and immeasurable awareness for CAN. 

In October 1997, CAN joined with The John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Foundation to sponsor “Advances in the Social Brain.” This exciting program gave researchers from the fields of autism and Alzheimer’s an opportunity to work collaboratively for the purpose of exploring newly discovered relationships among the brain, genes and behavior. Participants included leaders in cognitive psychology, behavioral neurology, genetics, and molecular biology. 

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