Annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball to benefit Yampa Valley Autism Program |

Annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball to benefit Yampa Valley Autism Program

Nicole Inglis

— Feathers, beads and masks. Hurricanes and Cajun fare. New Orleans funk and dancing the night away. The fifth annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball is that kind of party.

But beneath its mask of raucous fun is a serious matter: that of children in the Routt County community suffering from an autism-spectrum disorder or other developmental disabilities.

The tens of thousands of dollars raised at the annual party are for them.

"That ticket price pays for a lot of hours of therapy," said Lu Etta Loeber, director of the Yampa Valley Autism Program. "We're coming here to have a great time and dance and drink, but there are a lot of kids that are benefiting from it."

Last year, the Autism Program's largest annual fundraiser brought in $26,000 through the event’s ticket sales as well as silent and live auctions.

This year's event is from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. An acoustic trio will perform during the opening cocktail hour, and New Orleans funk rockers Johnny O. Band will take the stage at 7 p.m. Tickets are $90 per couple and $50 per person and available at All That Jazz or at

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A silent auction throughout the evening includes Steamboat Powdercats packages and a trip to the Bahamas.

At 8 p.m., a live auction will begin featuring one prominent piece of memorabilia: a Fender guitar signed by the members of the Rolling Stones, or "the boys" as Loeber calls them, complete with a certificate of authenticity. There also is a privately catered dinner and a Sun Valley, Idaho, rafting trip.

Loeber said the funds raised at the event will help the organization expand its programming to include offerings for siblings and parents of children with autism or developmental disabilities.

The Autism Program serves about 60 local families and offers services for social cognition therapy, respite and family support.

A subset of the Autism Program is the Community Cultivation aspect, which helps developmentally disabled youths get workforce experience. The 4-year-old program is about to open its new solar dome self-sustaining greenhouse.

Loeber said these expanding programs are starting to have a noticeable impact.

"We do not have a cure for this disorder," she said. "These kids … have a great deal of difficulty with social skills and interacting with their peers and their family. They don't understand how their behaviors affect other people. We really focus in on this and work on those skills.

"We are really beginning to recognize the effects and positive outcomes of our social cognition program. Kids are really responding."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

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