by Shannon Carr, Communications & Social Media Specialist

Morgan Autism Center’s eighth annual Starry Starry Night set new records in both attendance and fundraising Saturday evening at the Fourth Street Summit Center in downtown San Jose.

(Stan Olszewski/SOSKIphoto)

Approximately 390 family, friends and community supporters turned out to raise their auction paddles in celebration of our everyday efforts and star artists, grossing approximately $300,000 for our School and Adult Programs, nearly $88,000 more than last year.

“Morgan Autism Center was clearly able to share its mission with a large audience,” Event Chairwoman Daren Tuchman says. “The giving spirit in the room became contagious. The generosity of all the guests was simply heartwarming.”

Tom Taksa, a client in Morgan Autism Center’s Adult Program, warmly welcomed attendees by playing saxophone alongside Ron Borelli on piano. The evening kicked off with a reception and Silent Auction composed of many sought-after packages and 12 one-of-a-kind art pieces created by our students and adult clients. The night continued with dinner and a program, led by co-hosts Peter Finch and Brad Boardman, Morgan Autism Center’s Executive Director, and a Live Auction led by Auctioneer Craig Silverman.

Every year, Morgan Autism Center recognizes people or organizations who make important contributions to the local autism community.

“It is only fitting that this year — as we focus on the need to expand options for adults — the award is presented to one of the first employers in our area to believe in the capabilities and promise of people with autism,” Peter said in the introductory comments for the Outstanding Leadership Award.

Since 1989, long before Microsoft or SAP, Ratermann Manufacturing, Inc. and its president George Ratermann has been providing valuable employment opportunities for adults with autism through the program at Morgan Autism Center. Watch the acceptance speech here. Read an article about the partnership here.

“Our clients are able to do their work on our site where they are comfortable,” Brad said. “They feel a great sense of accomplishment in working for Ratermann. George’s desire to be inclusive and to tap into the community and his personal relationships have yielded a great benefit to many and provide a model to others.”

Other heartwarming accounts were shared throughout the evening, including from Sibling Speaker Katelynn Moriarty (watch her speech here or read her speech here) and later during a video played for the culminating event, Fund Our Needs. The short documentary — created by Lisa Damrosch — tells the story of two of our students and one of our adult clients, and how Morgan Autism Center has positively impacted theirs and their families’ journey with autism.Watch it by clicking on the link here.

Following the short documentary, Brad talked briefly about where the funding would be used.

(Stan Olszewski/SOSKIphoto)

“Many of our students at Morgan Autism Center struggle with communication,” Brad said. “Tonight we are asking for your help to purchase computer devices and assessment tools to help our students get matched up to an appropriate communication systems, for assistance with other technology to help our teachers track student progress, for transportation funds to assist our students and clients access and volunteer in the community, and for enrichment funds to help us continue with our amazing programs such as art, music, science camp and more.”

Craig then asked attendees to hold up their paddles at the appropriate financial level to support the many program needs.

We would like to acknowledge several community leaders who supported us at the event: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; San Jose City Councilmembers Charles “Chappie” Jones, Donald Rocha and Margie Matthews; and Sunnyvale Councilmember Jim Davis. Sal Pizarro, a columnist with the San Jose Mercury News, also came out to support the event. Read about his experience here.

Morgan Autism Center would also like to thank generous sponsors of this year’s Starry Starry Night, without whom the evening would not be possible: CBRE, John Sobrato, Jon and Mindy Gray, Joe and Lisa Moriarty, Vilma Palette, Wison Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation, Fremont Bank, Heritage Bank, Intel Corporation, Nena Montgomery and Michael Edson, Steve and Suzanne Gilbert, Focus Business Bank, Premier Nissan of San Jose, along with all of our family sponsors and other donors.

“Starry Starry Night was an amazing demonstration of how important Morgan Autism Center is to the community,” Brad Boardman said. “The night really showcased some of the things that make Morgan Autism Center great: the achievements of our students and clients, the leadership demonstrated by our relationship with Ratermann Manufacturing and the family story of our sibling speaker Katelynn Moriarty,” Brad says. “All this illustrates the transformative power that comes from student and client focused programming and community engagement.”