ATO’s carnival fundraiser brings in $4,000 for autism treatment

The fraternity pledged a $25,000 goal to help families pay for critical autism services.

The Alpha Tau Omega fraternity hosted a carnival themed fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 26 in Peace Park to raise money for the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

ATO pledged a $25,000 goal for patient scholarship endowment fund, which helps families pay for critical autism services, Thompson Center spokeswoman Adrienne Cornwall said. ATO’s philanthropies contribute to this fund. ATO’s Signature Event Chairman Zach Carmichael said the event brought in approximately $4,000. He said the fraternity raised approximately $18,000 at its last fundraiser.

Bill Thompson, founder of the Thompson Center, and his brother Don Thompson are both MU alumni and ATO members. Carmichael said the fraternity likes to connect with its alumni for its philanthropic operations.

“They (the Thompsons) do incredible work and the research they do is helping so many,” he said.

ATO’s carnival offered corn hole, bounce houses, obstacles courses, a dunk tank, soccer shot and a silent auction among other activities. Participants could purchase tickets for $1 that allowed a certain number of games and activities.

Community members came out with their children to take part in the festivities. The Earth Day festival also took place in the area at the same time, which helped draw more people to the area.

Senior Jared Knupp, a member of ATO, said he has enjoyed being a part of the annual community event for the past two years.

“It’s not just a Mizzou-centric event,” he said. “It creates community involvement.”

One of the biggest events of the carnival was the attempt to break the world record for number of high-fives. Rye Shade, a 12 year-old Thompson Center patient, participated in the event. His goal was to exceed 260 high-fives, which he exceeded by receiving 287 high-fives.

Miriam Cullimore, the development coordinator for the Thompson Center, worked in a booth at the carnival to give information about the center’s autism research. She commented on how the carnival was not only great for the community but specifically kids with autism.

“Some kids (with Autism) have a lot of energy, so things like soccer toss and football are great for them,” she said. “The bounce house is great for kids with sensory needs.”

ATO also hosts a cornhole tournament in the fall to raise money for the scholarship fund. The fraternity men have been hosting the event for the past two years. They also volunteer with the Thompson Center’s “Light it up Blue” event April 2, the World Autism Awareness Day, during which select campus and Columbia buildings are lit up blue to raise awareness for autism.

Cullimore said these events can help foster a positive environment for kids with autism.

“A lot of kids get a good feeling seeing that people are here helping them,” she said. “It makes them feel more accepted.”

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