By Christopher Gillett
The Paula and Anthony Rich Center for the Study and Treatment of Autism received a $27,593 donation from Ante4autism through the Youngstown State University Foundation on Oct. 21.
Ante4autism is an annual poker tournament that takes place in Las Vegas to raise money for autism-related organizations. Over its existence, Ante4autism has raised $1.3 million, with this year’s tournament raising $161,000.
Doug Krinsky started Ante4autism through an organization he founded with his wife, Kelly Krinsky, called Beat Autism Now. Alongside bringing in professional and celebrity poker players, Doug Krinsky has also brought in furniture companies to sponsor the event.
Doug Krinsky said he became involved with raising money for autism after his son, Michael was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
“[My son] is why we do all of what we all do. Between my wife and I — everything we do is really to help folks like Michael,” Doug Krinsky said. “We know there’s plenty of families that can’t afford to do what it takes to get their son, daughter, adult with autism, or the families to reach their potential. So, that’s why we did our thing, because we want to help those families reach their full potential.”
The Rich Center, part of the Beeghly College of Education, functions as an externally funded nonprofit organization. It caters to students with autism and their families, does research and educates YSU students pursuing nursing, special education and other degrees.
The Rich Center was founded in 1995 through outside donations and named after Paula and Anthony Rich, who died in the crash of USAir Flight 427.
Georgia Backus, the Rich Center’s director from 1995 to 2013, said the center has grown its scope since its creation.
“In the very beginning, we had a dream, a vision, of what we wanted the center to look like, and we are getting there every single day,” Backus said. “It’s just absolutely grown tremendously, even in terms of research [and] working with faculty. It is just amazing.”
When the Rich Center started it was only a summer program and had three students, but now it operates year round and works with 60 students.
Michael Latessa, interim executive director of the Rich Center, said the work is hard but worthwhile.
“They say ‘If you meet one child with autism, you meet one child with autism.’ It’s a spectrum for a reason, and being able to provide individualized care for everyone that walks in our door, it can have its challenges,” Latessa said. “Seeing the work work that we do and the quality of life that we provide to our students on the autism spectrum makes this all worthwhile.”
Ante4autism is supporting other organizations this year such as the National Autism Association of Southeast Ohio and Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks has been criticized because of statements connecting vaccines to autism and over its descriptions of autism spectrum disorder. Doug Krinsky said charities often receive criticism while encouraging people to make their own decisions on the organization.
“What Autism Speaks does is they try to advocate for everybody on the autism spectrum, the parents, the support network, as well as the kids and the adults on the spectrum. Not everybody agrees with every single charity that’s out there. That’s kind of why we started our own charity, [because] we wanted to do our thing,” Doug Krinsky said. “You can research them all and make your own opinion on them all.”