USF Autism Center’s 3rd Annual Fiesta by the Bay at Gaspar’s Grotto April 18

TAMPA, Fla. (April 11, 2008) – The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD)* at the University of South Florida returns to Gaspar’s Grottoin Ybor City for its third annual Fiesta by the Bay, April 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30.  WFLA News Channel 8 Anchor Stacie Schaible returns for her second stint as Honorary Chair for the event.  Proceeds will benefit special activities that support individuals with autism and related disabilities and their families.

“Stacie has a personal connection to the community we serve,” said Karen Berkman, director of CARD-USF.  “That connection influenced her decision to join forces with us.”

Schaible has both a relative and a friend with a child who have both been diagnosed with autism.

"My heart goes out to all families touched by autism,” said Schaible.  “We keep hearing about the alarming increase in the number of children who are diagnosed and we have to continue to raise awareness."

Schaible’s station, News Channel 8, is also a sponsor of this year’s fundraiser and is joined by others including law firm Fowler, White, Boggs, Banker, Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers, Tijuana Flatsand Kaleisia Tea Lounge, which hosted the “Gifts of Love Celebration,” a fundraising event for CARD-USF, in February.  More than 200 guests danced the night away last April and Fiesta guests have helped raise almost $25,000 through this annual event.

CARD-USF is a community-based project that provides information and consultation to individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities.  CARD-USF offers instruction and coaching to families and professionals through training and assistance. CARD-USF is one of seven regional, university-based CARD centers in Florida.

“Having the support and contributions from concerned citizens allows CARD-USF to give back something extra to the communities we serve such as special events and family oriented activities,” said Karen Berkman, director of CARD-USF.

CARD has planned several events in April during Autism Awareness Month.  Events include sending information and awareness packages to schools and pediatricians in the region, library media events, a literacy workshop and autism trainings. 

“Fiesta by the Bay was such a wonderful event for us and we expect to see even greater participation this year,” said Berkman. “Showing support in this way provides another vehicle to spread awareness and helps us continue toward our goal of optimizing the potential of people with autism and related disabilities.”

Gaspar’s Grotto is located at 1805 East 7th Ave. in Tampa. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling Christine Rover at 813-974-9264. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and admission is $25 per person which covers music, finger food, one drink and chances to win prizes. Additional activities include salsa dancing and a fantastic silent auction.

* What is CARD-USF? “This brief video is an overview description of the support and assistance available through CARD-USF.”

The University of South Florida is among the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community engaged public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It is one of Florida's top three research universities. USF was awarded more than $300 million in research contracts and grants last year. The University offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The University has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 45,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

– USF –