A number of nonprofits, including the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Susan G. Komen have canceled plans to hold fundraising events at the Mar-a-Lago Club and other Trump properties. These cancellations are in response to what many feel to be inadequate and offensive statements from President Trump about a recent white supremacist march in Charlottesville. President Trump’s initial response was that there were bad actors on “both sides” and that there were some “fine people” marching alongside the self-described Nazis and white supremacists attending Unite the Right.
What decisions have nonprofits relevant to the neurodiversity community made in response to the President’s statements on Charlottesville? This article outlines which organizations have stood by President Trump and which have not, as President Trump makes unprecedented attacks on programs like SSDI and Medicaid that many in our community need to survive. Autistic people who are also marginalized because of their race or religion already face many challenges. This is an opportunity for organizations to make a statement by standing with those who rely on social services. Since President Trump has not divested from his businesses, cancelling an event at Mar-a-Lago or any other Trump property isn’t just a symbolic gesture. It has an impact on President Trump’s income and profits.
President Trump has long been a supporter of Autism Speaks and its founders. Unfortunately, lighting up Mar-a-Lago and the White House blue doesn’t help autistic adults live more independently or get us access to healthcare. As President Trump moves to cut food stamps, he should remember that autistic people can’t eat blue light bulbs. Neurodivergent people need actual, not symbolic, support from the President and his administration.
The Autism Project of Palm Beach County has decided to take their business elsewhere. Their president, Richard Busto, told the Washington Post that his organization has decided to cancel a future events at Mar-a-Lago. The group has held annual galas at Mar-a-Lago every year since 2008. Unfortunately, we were not able to reach their organization for comment. The Autism Project of Palm Beach County runs two segregated charter schools as well as adult day programs.
The Unicorn Children’s Foundation, which funds projects addressing developmental and intellectual disabilities, has also opted to take its business elsewhere. They are currently fundraising to recoup the costs of cancelling their gala. They posted the following statement on their Facebook page:
“Unicorn Children’s Foundation is focused on its mission to build communities of acceptance, support and opportunity for children and young adults challenged by special needs and neurodiversity. We are not a political organization and do not condone hatred or bullying on any level as our kids have dealt with the pain of being called different on a very personal level. Due to the political turbulence associated with this choice of venue it would be a disservice to our supporters and our children to hold our event at Mar-a-Lago. We prefer the conversations to be centered off the venue and instead focused on how we can help kids with special needs excel in their communities. Therefore, we have decided that it is in the best interest of the organization and the families we support to not host our fashion show luncheon at Mar-a-Lago. Our hope is that this decision will shift the conversation back to our mission, special needs priorities and the people we serve.”
The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation is named for the son of its founders, Joyce and Dusty Sang. It funds projects connected to bipolar community needs. The foundation announced Friday that its January symposium luncheon will not be at Mar-a-Lago as originally planned. “We stand with the community. “I think people are standing up for what they believe,” the foundation’s co-founder, Dusty Sang, told the Washington Post.
The Els for Autism Foundation, in contrast, has gone on record refusing to move or cancel their event at the Trump National Golf Club. The Els For Autism Foundation is a Jupiter-based non-profit established in 2009 by golfer Ernie Els and his wife Liezl. Mr. Els has a longstanding friendship with President Trump. President Trump has gifted properties to The Els Foundation to build a segregated school. Recently, Mr. Els went golfing with President Trump. “We do not have any plans to change any of the venues for our upcoming celebration,” Pamela Minelli, the foundation’s director of development, told the Palm Beach Post When called for further clarification, the organization declined to comment.
As of publication, the Palm Beach Habilation Center has not decided whether their upcoming gala will remain at Mar-a-Lago. In a statement to the Washington Post, David Lin, the center’s director, said, “As of right now, we’re staying. We have to talk to our auxiliary and the board, which is putting it on the agenda for its meeting.”
Do you live in South Florida? What are your thoughts on these nonprofits and foundations? Have you received services from any of them? What are your thoughts on event cancellations at Mar-a-Lago? Please share your thoughts in the comments.