Changing the PACE of autism

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Kacey Fang

Allison Kiang (12) helps clean up after the event. The concert ended up raising over $600 in cash donations.

With April being Autism Awareness Month, several Upper School students performed in and organized “Light It Up Blue,” a benefit concert at Santana Row last Saturday that raised money and awareness for the Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE).

From 12 to 4 p.m. bands and solo performers ascended the stage in front of Urban Outfitters, donating their songs and tips to the organization, which offers services to people with autism and their families.

The first of these performances, Gurutam Thockchom (11), Jonathan Yiu (11) and Satchi Thockchom (9) kicked off the event with several covers.

“Today on stage was the first time we really played together as a band,” Gurutam said. “It’s one of those things where as a performer you just really have to work as hard as you can before the show, and once you’re on the stage, you just have to let it go.”

Gurutam’s advisor, Spanish teacher Daniela Rozanes, happened to be passing by Santana Row when she saw “Goo and his crew” performing.

“[Gurutam] didn’t tell me anything,” she said. “This was a very nice coincidence and a beautiful show.”

As the president of PACE’s Youth Leadership Committee (YLC), which was responsible for organizing and running the event, Allison Kiang (12) contacted Santana Row’s management company in October. The following months were spent contacting the area’s businesses and restaurants for support, as well as recruiting performers.

It was pretty intense getting everything together, but it all worked out. What I hope is that people get to see what PACE does and really understand what autism is.”

— Allison Kiang (12)

At the same time as the performances, YLC members ran a booth called Operation Enable, consisting of activities meant to raise awareness of what someone on the autism spectrum might experience.

“Our goal is to have people understand how autism affects the lives [of people with autism] and the society around us so that we can be more aware and better in the ways that we deal with autism in our everyday lives,” Ayush Midha (12) said.

Ayush Midha (12) prepares for an activity as part of Operation Enable. The goal was to raise awareness for autism through interactive simulations.
Kacey Fang
Ayush Midha (12) prepares for an activity as part of Operation Enable. The goal was to raise awareness for autism through interactive simulations.

Volunteers also handed out flyers for VeggieGrill and Pasta Pomodoro, who donated part of their proceeds to PACE, and provided balloons for small children at the event. At the chess area by Pinkberry, other groups like Monta Vista’s jazz band performed.

Daniela Lee (12) attended the event to support her friends.

“I learned that there are many people out there who are supporting the cause and trying to raise money for it,” she said.

The event raised over $600 through cash donations alone, with online donations and money raised through the restaurant fundraisers remaining to be tallied.