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Westport Mom Raises Autism Funds, Awareness

When Allison Ziering Walmark's son, Ethan, was diagnosed on the autism spectrum just before he turned 3, she began looking for an organization for help. "A mother of quads from Weston introduced me to Autism Speaks ," she said. The group sponsors an annual walk in June to raise awareness and funds, and Ziering Walmark threw herself into it. "Just from Facebook and email, we raised $17,000," she said.

Wanting to do more, Ziering Walmark organized a benefit one-night, invitation-only, music festival with Alan Frost and Richard Greenspan, husband of Ethan's occupational therapist, Barbara. Hosting the show at their Westport home, Spanstock, as it was known, generated more than $50,000.

Ziering Walmark's philanthropic efforts didn't end there. The next year she got her husband involved in the walk. By tapping into his friends in the financial industry, they raised $60,000. Spanstock 2, held Labor Day weekend, tallied more than $75,000. "Our goal is to get that over $100,000 next year," said Ziering Walmark.

She hopes all the fundraising, over $150,000 this year, will have a positive outcome. "We'd like to find more helpful treatment, the root cause, and ultimately, a cure for autism," she says.

Ethan is now a highly functional kindergartner, and Ziering Walmark says an important task is making people understand what autism is. "It's a spectrum, not just a single condition," she says. "Everyone's not banging their head on the wall like Dustin Hoffman in 'Rain Man.' Once people realize that, it becomes a lot easier for people on the autism spectrum to live fuller, more normal lives."

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