Steamboat Springs Families struggling to afford care for autistic children received a boost this week when the Yampa Valley Autism Program received a $50,000 to fund local programs.
Janna Marxuach, executive director of the Yampa Valley Autism Program, said the grant will help fund respite care programs.
"Childcare for children with special needs can be very difficult," she said. "You can't go to a list of local babysitters. You need people who understand and work with people with autism. It's more expensive and harder to find quality people."
Judy McCormack presented the grant on behalf of the Chicago-based Boler Family Foundation. McCormack is the daughter of John and Mary Jo Boler, the developers and owners of Sidney Peak Ranch, a 1,500-acre, private, working ranching community located nine miles outside of Steamboat Springs.
"They found out about our local autism program while out visiting in Steamboat," she said. "They said they wanted to help us in our rural setting to help improve the lives of families with children with autism."
McCormack, who has a son with autism, said understanding the needs of families affected by autism is a subject close to her heart.
"If we can help improve the outcome for one child with this disability through therapeutic intervention, we have taken a significant step in aiding the entire family," she said. "One aspect of our foundation's mission is to support children on the autistic spectrum, raise the visibility of this disorder, and to help find realistic ways to deal with it. We hope to do so by supporting scientific research and programs like this one."
Marxuach noted the autism program recently received nonprofit status and has grown to operate independently of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.
"Receiving consistent large donations from the Boler family has helped us realize our dreams for improving the lives of children on the autism spectrum and their families," said Marxuach, who said the Bolers have donated $100,000 in the past three years.
"We are now collaborating with the Yampa Valley Medical Center's pediatric therapists to create new programs, summer camps, offer scholarships and support families who have autistic children," she said.
Marxuach said the autism program's Board of Directors plans to meet next month for a retreat to discuss which programs are in most need of the grant.
"Before that, we are sending out needs assessment surveys to families to determine the highest area of needs," she said. "Fifty thousand dollars won't cover everything. We have such intense needs that we need to see where to start and where we can get the most bang for our buck."
To contact the Yampa Valley Autism Program, call 870-4263 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.