Leader in Autism Education Holds Signature Event Online for the First Time

Southborough, Mass. – December 4, 2020 – The New England Center for Children® (NECC®), a global leader in autism education and research, announced today that its 2020 Children of Promise Gala, that took place on Nov. 20, raised over $670,000 despite being held virtually for the first time.

Since 2015, the annual Children of Promise Gala has attracted hundreds of business leaders, philanthropists, friends, and families to Boston for an evening featuring awards, auctions, and stories of inspiration. Last year’s $1 million gala set a new record for the Center’s signature fundraising event. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced NECC to shift its plans.

Through a partnership with Worcester-based Votary Films, NECC presented an inspiring video production simulcast on YouTube and Facebook to more than 2,000 viewers. The online auction featured a variety of items and experiences from signed sports memorabilia to a weekend rental of a luxury sports car. Although the circumstances around this year’s program were unprecedented, the NECC community rose to the occasion and responded generously.

“In a year like this, we are especially grateful to our broad base of donors and corporate sponsors,” said Vinnie Strully, NECC’s founder and CEO. “Their support will allow our team of teachers, researchers, and clinicians to continue their life-changing work for children with autism.”

“What is truly remarkable about this year’s event”, explained Director of Institutional Advancement Beth McGonagle, “is that with low expenses, we achieved our second highest total in sixteen years of gala fundraisers. That’s a testament to the partnerships with our sponsors who share our mission as well as the incredible work our staff do to promote independence for our students.”

Proceeds from the 2020 Gala will provide personal protective equipment and testing for students and staff, and technology to support remote learning.

Gala Just Another in a Line of Non-Traditional Events

While the 2020 edition of the Children of Promise Gala was the first of its kind to be held virtually, this is not the first time NECC had to reimagine traditional fundraising events. Dating back to early May, when the organization moved its annual 5K Walk/Run for Autism to virtual, NECC has hosted a number of non-traditional events.

An annual golf tournament was replaced by an extraordinary feat by NECC parent Mike McKenna and his son Matthew, who embarked on a four-day walk covering 100 miles on the Cape Cod Rail Trail and raising $44,000 for NECC. Members of Team NECC participated in the virtual Boston Marathon, with two team members finishing their course in front of a (socially-distanced) crowd of friends and families at the Center. Lastly, NECC staff and families completed their virtual Falmouth Road Races in towns throughout New England and beyond.

Through all of these non-traditional events, the NECC community consistently supported the Center and its mission to create a global network of educators, researchers, and programs so that those living with autism may live fuller lives.

“We have traditionally leaned heavily on in-person engagement to fundraise, so there were obvious concerns that the pandemic would cripple our fundraising efforts,” said Jared Bouzan, Chief Development Officer, who in part oversees NECC’s special events. “I am incredibly proud of the way that we pivoted, creating engaging, fun at-home experiences for our community that is always eager to lend their support.”

These non-traditional events have brought important resources at a time when expenses to address the health crisis and maintain the residential program have soared. At the same time, virtual events  have provided a way to engage a broader community. From runners who completed their 5K in London, to Gala attendees who tuned into the virtual program in Michigan, the virtual events have allowed NECC community members to participate despite being physically separated from the school.

“Seeing people all around the world participate in our events, has been an unforeseen benefit to these crazy times,” said Bouzan. “It illustrates how strong our community is and how many people believe in our mission. As a parent of a child with autism, I am touched by the enormity of it all.”

About The New England Center for Children

The New England Center for Children® (NECC®) is an award-winning autism education center and research institute. Committed to creating a world where autism is not a barrier to happiness, growth, and independence, our community of teachers, researchers, and clinicians provide comprehensive services including home-based, day, and residential programs, partner classrooms in public school systems, consulting services, and the ACE® ABA Software System (www.acenecc.org).

We are committed to creating an equitable workplace for our diverse team and providing industry-leading staff professional development opportunities, specifically with our on-campus graduate degree partnership programs. The result is a growing pool of autism educators and researchers that impact the lives of children with autism both at NECC and around the world. The New England Center for Children is based in Southborough, MA, and operates a center in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Learn more at www.necc.org.