For the past 9 years, The Bush Bunch has organized an annual garage sale raising money for Autism Ontario – Peel Chapter, and Autism Speaks. What started as a family garage sale, has led to a wonderful annual community event. This year, the family celebrated their 10th and final garage sale, raising over $46,000, bringing their grand total of 10 years, to over $120,000 for autism charities.

Giving back to the community and sharing their knowledge and experience with autism is part of their life as a family. Their story began when two of their children were diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Griffin, has multiple diagnoses, including autism, developmental delay and a rare genetic anomaly; and Emerson, also diagnosed with autism.

In 2008, the family participated in their first Autism Speaks walk in Toronto. After the walk, Shaelynne, their oldest daughter who was in grade 8 at the time, approached her parents wanting to do more. A pamphlet, handed out at the walk, provided some fundraising ideas which sparked Shaelynne to organize their first family garage sale in 2009. At first, the garage sale was held with items from family and friends, raising an incredible $2,000 in the first year. As the years progressed, the family reached out to their local community, by hand delivering over 5,000 flyers each year to promote their garage sale and encourage friends and neighbours to donate items they no longer needed. Every year a monetary goal was set and surpassed. In an effort to raise more money, the family began reaching out to local community businesses who generously donated items and/or gift certificates to raffle off, baked hundreds of homemade autism puzzle shaped cookies to sell at the event and even had a giant tent donated to use for their garage sale weekend.

Beyond raising money for our local autism charities, they are most proud of the community connections with families who have been touched by autism. The family has heard from many community members who know someone with autism, and has been able to provide families with information, support and personal experiences of their own life as a family living with autism. For this reason, the family also began supporting Autism Ontario – Peel Chapter over the past 3 years, providing funding for over 100 children with autism and their families to attend a weekend camp. Money raised this year, will be able to support an additional 3 years of funding for children to attend a weekend of camp with Autism Ontario and continue to provide financial support for research through Autism Speaks.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our families, friends, neighbours and community, who have supported us over the years. Although we know there is currently no medical detection or cure for autism, our little dream of making a difference has brought our community together, provided support to families and created a greater awareness of autism within our community. Thank you again for supporting our Bush Bunch and helping connect the autism puzzle!

Financial donations will still be accepted until June 1, 2019. For details, please contact thebushbunch6@gmail.com.

By: Carol Scaini