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Local team is one of top fundraisers for Autism Speaks

When Brett Schommer was diagnosed with PDD/NOS on the Autism Spectrum in 2002, the world was still learning about autism. Only about one in 180 children back then were diagnosed with autism.

These days, popular knowledge of the disorder is drastically improved and awareness is better as well. Now, one in 88 children are diagnosed, and one in 54 boys are found with some form of autism.

The Schommers have been doing their part in increasing awareness and support for autism research. Brett is the captain of “Brett’s All-Stars,” a team that participates every year in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. Each year, the team has improved fundraising efforts, and last year made it into the top five teams for money raised at the event out of more than 250 teams.

Last year, the team launched a new local event to help raise money for the walk.

“We were trying to work smarter and not harder to raise money for our walk team,” Brian Schommer, Brett’s father, explained.

They had heard of “wrap” events, or events beyond the walk itself that could help generate funds. Others had suggested garage sales, bake sales and other things, but Brett’s All-Stars had already tried hot dog sales at Coborn’s and wasn’t seeing the magnitude of support they were hoping for. Schommer had done silent auctions for other organizations, though, so he thought he’d see if that sort of event would work. It did. The event helped the team raise more than $5,400 last year.

This year is going to be better, he said, and the event is beginning to really take off.

“The generosity of people has just floored me,” he said.

The event

This year’s event begins at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Hastings Country Inn. It includes an all-you-can-eat Italian dinner catered by Green Mill of Hastings from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be live and silent auctions, drawings and live entertainment

The big items this year are several trips for reserve auction. Brett’s All Stars are working with BlueTree Marketing to provide the trips. Reserve auctions require a certain price to be met before the item is sold, but the reserve prices are significantly lower than the typical cost of the particular trip. Available are seven-day, six-night trips for two to Paris or Hawaii; a five-day trip for two to British Columbia; a four-day trip for two to wine country in Sonoma, Calif.; and other trips to places like New Orleans, Scottsdale, Ariz., Orlando, Fla., Washington, D.C., New York City and more. The trips include airfare, lodging and events, and winning bidders have a year to use the trips. It’s a great option for people who were already thinking of traveling, Schommer said, since they can get a reserve auction trip at a better price than on their own and support a cause while they’re at it. Unsold trips don’t cost Brett’s All Stars anything, either.

Other items up for auction and silent auction include an electric fireplace, a T.V., freezer, photography, wine and beer and baskets. One basket holds an autographed, first printing of Mark Weber’s book, “Tell My Sons,” a bottle of Coca-Cola and a bottle of rum, so the winner can read the book and enjoy Weber’s favorite drink. Weber, a Hastings native, died of cancer after writing the book. There’s enough variety in the items that have been donated that Schommer is confident that anyone who shows up to Brett’s Bash will find something they like.

“There’s something for everyone,” he said.

Tickets to Brett’s Bash are $20 in advance for ages 16 and older or $25 at the door. Youth tickets for children ages 9 to 15 are $12 or $15 at the door. Advance sale tickets are available at Schommer Insurance, 2134 Vermillion St., or by contacting Brian or Mary Schommer at 651-319-0699.The Walk Now for Autism Speaks event will be held Oct. 12 at the Mall of America.