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EARLY YEARS: Casino night fundraiser Saturday night will benefit the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center

BRAAC founder Angie Leonard says she was inspired by her own son, who has autism
Music, silent auction and more at event to raise money for the BRAAC
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:40 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - For Angie Leonard, the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center is a real labor of love.

“I have a son who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was two years old, and so this has been a life work for me to try to help him get better services for other kids just like him,” says Leonard.

Leonard is the founder and former Executive Director of SVH Services’ Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center, or BRAAC.

“Our main goal is to teach them skills that they don’t naturally happen upon. So, we do a lot of hard work, but we focus intensive a lot of one on one, a lot of group instruction, hands-on learning activities. And we teach them to evolve those skill sets into a classroom,” says Leonard.

The goal, Leonard says, is for each child is able to return to a more mainstream school setting.

“It’s intensive, it’s hard, but it is so worthwhile,” she says.

As for her own son, Leonard says he’s now 26 years old and has a job, but he’s still not ready to live independently.

With autism, Leonard says the work doesn’t stop once a child reaches 18.

“I think all of us parents who have kids with disabilities worry about where they’re going to be and how they’re going to survive when we’re no longer here,” says Leonard.

The BRAAC offers lifelong services, but that’s a bigger challenge due to pandemic-related staffing shortages.

Leonard is hopeful the BRAAC’s casino night fundraiser Saturday night will help to bring more teachers on board.

“It kind of feels like you’re in Vegas, but you’re not. We’re not gambling with real money. But we are going to have some of the same token machines and cards and things like that you can play,” she says.

A night of fun to help the BRAAC carry on its mission of bringing independence and hope to children with autism.

The Rosie’s Gaming Emporium Casino Night event is coming up Saturday, March 26 at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood in Roanoke from 6:00 to 10:00 pm.

To purchase tickets, click here.

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