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Poker run provides for autism family holiday grants

STRUTHERS — A bikers’ event fund is providing a holiday grant program for families and individuals affected by autism.

The Autism Society of Mahoning Valley announced the presentation of this year’s Mike Hull Memorial Family Mini Grant. The awards were divided among several area families, all looking to improve the opportunity for their child or young adult to improve his communication skills and wellness.

Seven Valley families were selected from the numerous applicants to be awarded grants through the fund.

Gifts will include iPads needed as communication devices, an indoor swing, an identification bracelet and gymnastics items.

The Holiday Autism Family Gift Presentation and Bowling Party is 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, at the Holiday Bowl, 777 Youngstown-Poland Road, Struthers.

“This year, the Mike Hull fund focused on the greatest need which was giving iPads to autistic individuals who are non-verbal. It is estimated that 25 to 50 percent of children diagnosed with autism never speak or not more than a few words. There are many caregivers that are not able to afford iPads and therefore their child has no way of expressing wants or needs,”said Robin Suzelis, board president of the Autism Society of Mahoning Valley.

In 2014, Melissa Kalaman and her family created the Family Mini Grant with proceeds from the annual Mike Hull Memorial Poker Run for Autism held every summer. Each year motorcyclists take part in the ride and large auction that follows in honor of Mike Hull — husband, father, brother and grandfather with a granddaughter on the autism spectrum.

The Mike Hull Mini Grant review committee feels the family mini grants are an important way to support families affected by autism who struggle with costs of therapies and treatments year-round. The group with the support of the Autism Society of Mahoning Valley offers an open application period every November so that it can assist financially burdened families with gift buying around the seasonal holidays.

For more information contact Suzelis at 330-333-9609 or info@autismmv.org.

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