The recent Denim & Diamonds event benefiting Autism Care and Treatment Today (ACT Today) included a salute to service dogs, and Sheila Appleby Williams, who– along with her canine companion Phoebe Rose– relays the news about star-studded soirees at A Traveling Pug, documents the philanthropic fete, which incorporated a paddle auction during the festivities to raise funds for 12 assistance dogs who will enrich the lives of autistic children.
by Sheila Appleby Williams
What do Nancy Grace (Nancy Grace Show), Tom Bergeron (American’s Funniest Home Videos), Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch), and Leeza Gibbons (television personality) have in common?
The answer is: they were among the many celebrities and guests gathered to celebrate the 6th Annual Denim & Diamonds fundraiser for Autism, hosted by ACT Today (Autism Care and Treatment Today!) a national non-profit organization based in Southern California.
According to the national Autism Society “One in 110 children in America is diagnosed with autism. Autism is more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, childhood AIDS and pediatric cancer.”
The lavish awards dinner was held on a recent balmy Saturday evening among the rolling hills and majestic oak trees of the Ahmanson Ranch in Calabasas.
Former Entertainment Tonight correspondent Julie Moran and her husband Rob shared the special evening with a new addition to their family– a Shih Tzu/Poodle.
Ladies, in fashionably high heels, following the requested chic dress code, gingerly made their way from the dusty parking area over the bumpy terrain to the deluxe event which featured a silent auction, live auction, awards, dinner and entertainment.
It was a first class orchestrated evening, not surprising, since the event host, organizer and executive director of ACT Today! Is the former Leeza show executive producer, autism advocate and media personality, Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson.
The glamorous event, co-hosted by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, world-renowned clinical psychologist and expert in the field of autism research and therapy included among the over 500 guests, the two honorees, television personality Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars and America’s Funniest Home Videos) and Rebecca Grossman, founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation for their outstanding efforts in supporting ACT Today!’s mission.
Canine guests included service animal members of The Arizona Goldens, a company that raises and trains service dogs and specializing in placing service dogs with individuals with Autism.
Service Spots from The Arizona Goldens enjoyed the celebrity scene at the event:
Throughout the year, ACT Today! gets numerous requests for assistance dogs from families of children with autism. The need has grown so great, that the event included a paddle auction, specifically to raise funds for assistance dogs for 12 children with autism from around the country. The average cost for training and placement is $15,000.
Guest, Erin Murphy (“Tabitha” on the popular 60’s/70’s TV show- Bewitched) is now the mother of 6 and since her son, Parker was diagnosed with Autism, has been very involved with autistic charities. “There’s always time to give! I love my kids, but they grow so much more seeing me remain active in the community,” she explained in a recent interview.
Erin Murphy of Bewitched fame (seen in the photo below) was spellbound by the cuteness of Julie Moran’s cuddly canine baby. A friend to all those with four feet, the former child star has used her pop culture icon status to raise funds for Precious Paws and a subdivision of L.A. Animal Services, the Small Animal Rescue Team (SmART).
ACT Today (Autism Care and Treatment Today) was founded by Dr. Granpeesheh, who founded the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc., (CARD) in 1990, “the world’s largest and most experienced organization effectively treating children with autism.”
Nancy Grace took time off from Dancing with the Stars rehearsals to waltz down the red carpet at the star-studded event and pose for a photo with Florence Henderson (see photo below). The Brady Bunch Mom– whose small screen ‘daughter’ Susan Olsen (aka Cindy Brady) is a volunteer with Precious Paws– recently joined forces with other famous faces to help out Mother Nature by taking part in Born Free USA’s Keep Wildlife in the Wild Week.
Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson is a former high-powered television producer and author, who turned activist on the subject of autism awareness after her adopted son Wyatt was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.
Nancy had the good fortune to hear Dr. Granpeesheh speak at an Autism conference in 2006 and immediately enrolled her son in the CARD program. CARD develops individualized treatment plans utilizing the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), a behavioral treatment approach.
Her son, Wyatt is now 8 and is making “tremendous progress,” says Alspaugh. “As difficult as it was getting the diagnosis for our son, we have never forgotten that we are the lucky ones in that we have the resources to find help – what about those families that don’t have the time or money to access treatment and care?”
With that in mind, she joined the ACT Today organization as their fundraising executive director and began the annual Denim and Diamonds for Autism fundraiser to benefit ACT Today! overseeing its numerous annual fundraisers, special events and campaigns.
Nancy Alspaugh with Dancing with the Stars co-host Tom Bergeron and Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh:
Proceeds from the event help provide resources and fund grants for children with autism whose families cannot afford the necessary tools their child needs to reach their full potential.
For more information about ACT Today:
- visit www.act-today.org
Photos courtesy Sheila Appleby Williams