Saturday, August 22, 2015

KultureCity: #18forlife

It started with a social media connection. Many of my autism warrior friendships started that way actually. We've become a large extended family - all fighting the same battle. We pray for awareness and acceptance. We encourage each other through stories of triumph and hope. We understand the importance of small victories like delayed first words and eye contact; we fear things like wandering and the heartbreak many of our families have experienced in its aftermath. We get it... and we're surrounded by friends and loved ones who get it too. Our village.

Then there was the email I received back on May 1st from Michele Maha. She and her husband Julian founded an organization in Birmingham, Alabama called KultureCity. Their mission is an amazing one. While many autism organizations focus on awareness, KultureCity's goal is to provide tangible help and equip businesses and the community with to aid and understand children and families affected by autism. From art and music camps, scholarships, connections to service providers, IPads, and their lifesaving lifeBOKS, the Mahas have dedicated themselves to making a difference in the lives of our families and communities all over the world. And they understand... they have a son with autism. 

A beautiful reminder in Birmingham.

Michele invited me to learn more about KultureCity and I was impressed by their mission. The number one complaint I usually hear from autism families is that there is enough awareness... we need help. Real, tangible help. And KultureCity seems to be filling that void. Check out some of their amazing initiatives here.

Michele invited me to Birmingham to receive an award for my autism advocacy. What an honor. I was truly blessed to be among some of the movers and shakers in the autism community. I'm still in awe of this amazing group and all of their accomplishments. From an NFL great, a child prodigy, and a fellow reality star, the list was impressive!

My KultureCity trip began with a presentation and panel discussion at the Ignite conference. It was pretty incredible. The following morning, we were treated to a VIP party at jewelry store Kendra Scott. We sipped mimosas while customizing jewelry and having some fun and much needed girl time. It doesn't get much better than that.

A highlight - I finally got to meet my autism sister Jacqueline Laurita of the RHONJ. We've been "Twitter" friends for years and finally got to connect in person. It was great! She and her husband Chris will be in Dallas next month for Generation Rescue's annual conference - can't wait to see them in the big D!

And then... there was the KultureBall. Over 500 people dressed to the nines came out to raise tens of thousands of dollars for KultureCity and its lifeBOKS and #18forlife program. $18 will provide a potentially life-saving kit to our families. There have been so many autism wandering deaths recently - sad, tragic, preventable stories. KultureCity is trying to prevent them and these kits are making a difference.

My family and KultureCity knows how to throw a party for a cause. What a memorable couple of days in Birmingham. I'm so blessed to be a part of the KultureCity family and I look forward to helping out as much as possible in the future. Because that's what family does... (and I have to send a special shout out to Diane Zaragoza for being such an incredible hostess).

With Kevin Spencer and Dahn and Alimi Ballard

With the man... Jacob Barnett. Google him.

Mike Vo (we2o founder) and Patrick Whaley (TITIN Tech)

c. David Bley Storytellers

c. David Bley Storytellers

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