Rock For Autism

USF freshman created charity and holds benefit concerts to raise money and bring awareness to autism.


Steve Toth poses with Christine Rover of USF CARD after receiving the WEDU Be More ENTREPRENEURIAL Rising Star Award in January 2011.



By Daylina Miller News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (March 1, 2011) – How do you raise money and spread awareness of developmental brain disorders in children? You rock out, of course.


Project: Rock for Autism is a nonprofit organization that raises money for autism through a series of student-led benefit concerts to help families in the Tampa Bay area. Since its inception in 2008, the organization has raised more than $10,000.


The kicker is that in 2008, the founder was in the tenth grade at Gulf High School trying to fulfill a graduate requirement for the International Baccalaureate® program. Steve Toth was already in a band and one of his project members had a younger brother with Autism. Combining the two only made sense.


“It’s helping a lot of people and keeping me involved with music,” Toth said. “Music is something I’d do anyway and autism doesn’t get a lot of media attention but it affects a lot of kids.”


The first concert was planned for Sims Park in New Port Richey but there was too much red tape from the city and police department. So Toth took it to his high school principal and requested to use Gulf’s stadium. The first concert was held in August 2008 and raised $1,050.


But Toth didn’t stop after fulfilling his school requirements. He held another concert in May 2009 and again in May 2010.


Now a freshman majoring in civil engineering at the University of South Florida, Toth is planning a concert for this coming fall.


“You can’t quantify awareness but I want to create more of it,” Toth said.


He was originally partnered with a smaller Autism Awareness organization but for the last two years has been partnered with The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at USF (USF CARD).


USF CARD is a 501[c][3] organization that provides communities, organizations, agencies, service providers and families with the knowledge and skills to support children and adults with autism and related disabilities. CARD serves more than 6,000 families and professionals across 14 counties in southwest Florida.


“I was really amazed that this high school student was putting on this type of event and really doing everything,” said Christine Rover, the community inclusion coordinator for USF CARD. “Its not often that I get people who call and say ‘We want to do this event and give you thousands of dollars’.”


Earlier this year WEDU, west central Florida’s leading PBS station and public media source, recognized more than 75 nonprofit organizations, and a number of individuals, who applied for honors and recognition in the sixth annual WEDU Be More Awards held at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa.


Toth won first place for the WEDU Be More ENTREPRENEURIAL Rising Star Award, an award presented to an individual, under the age of 30, who has distinguished themselves by using entrepreneurial skills to build a successful endeavor in the nonprofit arena that can be directly accredited to their inspiration, motivation and business acumen.


USF CARD put him up for the award.


“I didn’t expect to win,” Toth said. “There were young kids up there and a lot of other stuff that could have easily been picked. But a lot of people used charities that already existed and we invented one.”


“I was in shock,” said his mother, Patricia Toth. “I really didn’t know if he would win because he was up against some really good people. One was doing work for the VA hospital and there was a 12 year old was doing work with the Little Red Wagon Foundation. “


To even place as a finalist, contestants had to be voted for online. But unlike the thousands of “Vote for me!” links flooding Facebook pages around the world, Toth was reluctant to promote himself. He did want to promote the cause though.


“He wouldn’t even put it on his own Facebook page for people to vote for him,” Patricia said. “He doesn’t want to make himself look any better than anyone else. Finally, I was putting it on mine and he was copying it every once in a while asking people to vote to get publicity for the concerts.


 “He’s a pretty humble guy. He always hated when I bragged about hm. He always wants to do the right thing and help. None of it has ever been for him to get attention. He wants all the focus to be on the cause.”


This semester, Toth has taken his support one step further and signed up as a mentor for the learning academy at CARD for young adults with autism, Rover said. Toth is paired with an individual to help him get more information about going to college or joining the workface. They will work on projects and homework, and more than likely Rover said, enjoy music together.


Daylina Miller covers student activities and trends. She can be reached at 813-500-8754.