Autism benefit helps cause

Organizers hope Basket Cheese Ball will become an annual event

The Basket Cheese Ball held Friday, Oct. 30 at Mallozzi's in Rotterdam, helped raise nearly $4,000 to go toward autism awareness efforts.

The gala was sponsored by Republican County Legislator Angelo Santabarbara's Cheese Company. Profits from the Santabarbara Cheese Company go towards local charities. In 2008, the company gave $1,200 to the Autism Society of America, Albany Chapter. In 2009 the company used the profits from the cheese that was sold to pay for the gala, which brought in close to $4,000 in assorted donations from local companies and private donors.

It was a lovely event, said Janine Kruiswijk, Executive Director of the ASA's Albany Chapter. "Both he [Santabarbara] and his wife were so generous in helping our cause and to help gain awareness with the policy-making in our area."

Money was raised at the gala, which organizers hope will become an annual event, through a silent auction, the meal, tickets and other charitable donations. More than 25 local businesses, including Old Schenectady LLC, Tops American Grill and Bow Tie Cinemas, donated items to the silent auction. Silent auction items included ski passes at Maple Ski Ridge, a gift certificate to Boscias Liquor and a gift basket From the Golub Corporation. Private donors from both the Albany and Schenectady areas also came out in support of the ASA.

The Santabarbaras, parents of an 8-year-old autistic son, have been longtime supporters of the program.

"For the first year, we think this is great, and we hope to do more next year," said Santabarbara. "I couldn't think of a better organization to give to. There comes a time to give back, and when that time comes you have to find a way to help."

Santabarbara commended the efforts of the ASA's Albany Chapter in helping to bring about greater awareness of autism and the families who have loved ones affected by autism.

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