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East County Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2010 7 years ago

Ranch Main to host benefit for children with autism

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MANATEE COUNTY —Brynn Rangel wasn’t sure what to do when doctors said her 2-year-old son, Avan, had symptoms of autism.

And now — nearly two years later — although Avan still demonstrates many of the behavioral traits associated with the condition, his doctors still haven’t given him an official diagnosis. That fact has made it extremely difficult for his mother to match him with the resources he needs to succeed.

After Avan was kicked out of two preschools within two weeks for his behavior, Rangel found Beyond the Spectrum, a non-profit that provides behavioral therapy and other resources to children with autism spectrum disorders and their families. So far, it’s been a perfect fit for her son, who turns 4 on April 21.

“He’s a different child,” Rangel said of Avan, who began attending Beyond the Spectrum in November. “His (issues) aren’t gone, but they are better. Those things have diminished so much. He’s even initiating conversation with his peers.”

On April 10, Manasota Family & Kids, a family resource guide, will hold its third annual fundraiser for Beyond the Spectrum. The event, called Spring into Summer Fun Day, will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, on Lakewood Ranch Main Street. Festivities include performances by East County elementary school dance teams, music, bounce houses, children’s activities, a silent auction, food, vendors and more.

“There’s a whole bunch of different things (going on),” event organizer and Manasota Family & Kids Publisher Peggy Caruso said. “I think, hopefully, we’re going to draw a really big crowd out there. I think this is going to be a good location.”

In case of rain, the fundraiser will be held at the same time and place April 18.

Although proceeds from the event benefit Beyond the Spectrum, Caruso said the day also is an opportunity to educate the public about autism, how it affects families and what resources are available to those affected by it.

“Unfortunately, there’s so many children out there with autism, and this has affected so many families,” she said. “We want to bring awareness to it. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the more that can be done (for the child).”

Catherine Peabody, Caruso’s sister and founder of Beyond the Spectrum, agreed.

“This (event) is the one that gets the word out the most,” Peabody said. “We’ve gotten so much community involvement in it. It’s more about the awareness. People aren’t really aware the numbers are so high. It’s an expensive disorder. If you can’t afford it, your child gets under serviced and their potential is so great.”

The fundraiser, which has traditionally been held in the fall, was moved to April in recognition of Autism Awareness Month, among other reasons, Caruso said.

For information about Beyond the Spectrum, visit For information about Manasota Family and Kids, visit

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

Spring into Summer Fun Day
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., April 10 (Rain date April 18)
WHERE: Lakewood Ranch Main Street
ACTIVITIES: Dance performances, music, bounce houses, children’s activities, a silent auction, food, vendors and more
COST: Free

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