‘Funday’ fundraiser targets autism

YOUNGSTOWN — More than 600 people joined Dylan’s House, a nonprofit dedicated to building houses for people with autism, at downtown for the “Sunday Funday Fundraiser.”

The fundraiser brought in a $20,000 donation from the Mahoning County commissioners and a $54,250 check from Citizens Wealth Management, a financial services firm.

“What we are trying to accomplish with our nonprofit first of all our inspiration is our son, Dylan, who is 23 and a young man with autism,” said Dylan’s House president and director Kevin Shope.

“We were fortunate enough as a family to be able to provide him with his own home, somewhere he can live with a caregiver 24/7 and really gain some independence and a more fulfilling life,” Shope said. “And it was really life changing for us as a family too, and we’re looking to help other families in the valley with autistic children accomplish the same thing.”

Shope is a longtime employee of Citizens Wealth Management.

This is the second Sunday Funday Fundraiser, and Shope conservatively estimated that Sunday’s event raised approximately $150,000 for Dylan’s House. The fundraiser raised money through event-ticket sales, a gift-basket raffle, a silent auction and a 50-50 raffle. A number of local sponsors also made donations

“The great thing about this event is that every dollar that we take in is going directly to our mission,” Shope said.

The mission of the organization is to raise money to build housing, help families pay for caregivers, and raise awareness about autism.

“We will be buying and building homes right here in the Mahoning Valley for autistic individuals” to live in, Shope said, and they are on track to have their first two homes built by the end of this year.

Dylan’s House also will give out caregiver grants twice a year. They already have dispersed one round of grants in December of 2023 and will give out more grants mid-year in 2024.

Dylan’s House also will host educational events related to autism.

Attendees milled about Penguin City’s cavernous former warehouse, ate food provided by Tra’s Gourmet Sandwiches, La Campirana, and One Hot Cookie, and bought drinks at the bar. Local band RDNA provided live and very loud rock and roll classics.

Ervin Adams of Youngstown has worked with the Shope family for 23 years and was there to show his support. “I am a very big supporter of Dylan’s House, Dylan’s home (meaning the actual Shope household), and Dylan himself,” Adams said. “If you love us,” he said about professional caregiving, “we love you even more.”

Alexandria Sheharan of Poland, a special education teacher with Alta Head Start, donated her afternoon to the fundraiser. “We donate our lives to students with special needs,” Sheharan explained. She said that she appreciated Dylan’s House because it gives adults with autism the ability to live an independent life, “just like the rest of us,” she added.

Mahoning County Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler presented the honorary five-foot long check,

“This is what we do,” Traficanti told the crowd, “we need to help the community.”

Representatives of Citizens Wealth Management then presented their own honorary check.

“We are happy to support such a wonderful cause,” Jo Ann Desmarteau of Independence said. Desmarteau has worked with Shope for many years and praised his new venture. “We are thrilled to give back to so many in so many ways,” she said.

“When we moved Dylan out into his own home, the changes have been unbelievable, not only for Dylan but for the family,” Amy Shope, Dylan’s mother and vice president of Dylan’s House told the crowd, “so we really felt that we wanted to do that for other families. This really means a lot to us. We are so passionate about this.”

The crowd responded with enthusiastic cheers and applause.

“There’s something special about Youngstown and special about the people, how they rally around a cause and come together. The reaction we’ve gotten from our sponsors is proof of that, and the number of people who came out is proof of that,” Shope said.

Have an interesting story? Email the newsroom at news@vindy.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today