FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. – Tommy and Chantal Bagwell, along with their company American Proteins and the Bagwell Family Foundation, offered a challenge to the community.
They called on the community to meet the $250,000 goal the Community Board of Children’s Healthcare of Forsyth set to fund an eye-tracking device that could help identify signs of autism in children as young as 12 months.
The Bagwells pledged to match community donations dollar for dollar up to $75,000 toward the Early Autism Detection Unit for CHoA’s location at the Collection at Forsyth, 410 Peachtree Parkway in Cumming.
The community responded in so many ways, said Beth Buursema, a community outreach manager for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“Schools, service organizations, businesses and individuals helped us to reach the goal,” Buursema said.
Another sizable donation was made last month by Mark and Layla Gunn, owners of the Melting Pot Midtown Atlanta, Duluth, Roswell and Kennesaw locations.
The Gunns, who also run the Pure Imagination nonprofit, which connects terminally ill children with other generous children to create lasting friendships, donated $75,000 to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. About $30,000 of that gift is going to CHoA Forsyth for the autism eye-tracking device fund.
On Jan. 25, a fundraiser will be held at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, 9135 Willeo Road in Roswell, with proceeds benefiting yearly operational costs of the eye-tracking device.
One in 88 children is affected by autism and related disorders nationally, and one in 84 is affected in Georgia.
Thousands more are affected by developmental, neurocognitive and behavioral disabilities.
The autism diagnostic process currently takes about a day and a half and is usually done by a neuro-pediatrician and a psychologist, in collaboration with several other specialists.
It’s a costly procedure and with limited trained teams of professionals that are qualified to help, there are often long waiting lists.
Dr. Ami Klin and Dr. Warren Jones, of the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, developed and built the eye-tracking device that can predict the likelihood of autism to a high degree.
They pair their diagnostic work with an early intervention program.
The goal of this project is to place 10 eye-tracking devices in high-volume pediatric centers in greater Atlanta so infant patients can be tested for autism as they are tracked for other developmental milestones.
Eye-tracking technology allows doctors to see how a child pays attention to the world by measuring eye movements as the child watches videos of social interaction, such as a mom singing nursery rhymes. It is safe and noninvasive, like watching television.
The eye-tracking device creates the potential to move diagnosis from a subjective screening measure to a quantitative test that can significantly enhance the positive impact of early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders.
By reaching the fundraising goal of $250,000, the eye-tracking device will be purchased in Forsyth County to be used for early detection and intervention.
Buursema said Children’s is looking for families to help with studies being conducted.
“The sooner a child is seen, the more effective the therapy,” Buursema said.
Find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, call 404-785-9473 or visit www.marcus.org/research and www.choa.org.
What: Ice Fest 2014 featuring the Atlanta Ice Marvels
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 25
Where: 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell, Ga. 30075
Why: Children’s Charities fundraiser benefiting the Early Autism Detection Unit at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in Forsyth County.
Cost: Day passes available for $10 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) includes ice carving competition, food trucks, inflatables, a magician and a bonfire with s’mores. Reception and reveal from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. costs $35. The total package costs $45 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Info: www.ticketalternative.com (Search: ICE FEST), or call 1-877-725-8849