The mission of Airboaters for Autism Awareness (AFAA) is to raise awareness and funding for local organizations committed to autism awareness. Our goal is to educate the local community by hosting events that merge our love for the unique outdoors of Florida with our passion for autism advocacy.
In 2016, Tad unveiled his new airboat, Blown to Pieces. From top to bottom it was a tribute to his son, Clayton, who has autism. For kicks, Tad entered his boat into two airboat shows in South Florida and was astounded at the attention and interest that the boat garnered. Through urging and help from close friends, the family decided to have a small event in Area 2 in the Everglades on World Autism Awareness day to Light It Up Blue. Through word of mouth and a new social media presence people heard about the event and shirts were made, food was donated, and a puzzle was built to float in the water. The turnout was fantastic and we ended up having money leftover that we donated to a local cause. It hadn’t occurred to us to fundraise and we quickly realized the impact our cause could have on the state of Florida and the autism community.
Over the next few years we raised like we didn’t know we could. We were able to donate to a plethora of causes and organizations like TOPSoccer, The Hope Center, Deerfield Beach Elementary Autism Program, Spectrum Thrift Store, FAU CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disabilities), UCF CARD, and UF CARD. As we have grown we have been searching the state for causes to get behind and would love to expand our reach to other individuals with autism. Our goal is to donate to causes that involve individuals with autism (of any age) in the outdoors.
We are beyond humbled and grateful to the people we have encountered while on this journey. This organization is not just a job to us, it is something that we put sweat and tears into every year because it matters. People wearing our shirts or putting our stickers on their boats has spread awareness far and wide. Initially we were shocked at how many people we knew that we did not know had been impacted by autism that first year in our airboating circle; now we live for the stories people tell us. We live for the community that has rallied around our cause and made it their cause each year and we cannot thank each of you enough. That is why on the second weekend in April we decide to Light It Up Blue each year surrounded by airboaters who know how special people with autism really are.