PALS Provides gives back to autism community


photo by Tyler Copeland

PALS president Karina Rodriguez delivers Kindle Fires purchased for local classrooms through the PALS Provides program.

Spencer Thompson, Sports Editor

“It’s really important to embrace differences,” senior Karina Yap said. “There’s so many differences between everybody in the world, that’s what makes us human. When we interact with only people, that’s when we need to embrace them and not alienate them.”

This is exactly what the Providing Autism Links and Support program has done.

Every February, the PALS program holds the Hearts for Autism walk. The group normally raises between $5,000 and $7,000 each year. Normally, the program would put this money toward a community event such as bowling, putt putt golf, or a dance for community members on the autism spectrum. This year, however, PALS is sticking true to their name, and doing much more.

At the end of the past school year, PALS started a new program, PALS Provides, in which Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) teachers could send in requests for new products to help run the classroom, such as Kindle Fires, iPads, crash pads, and other standard classroom necessities such as easels, computer software, books, or anything which can prove educationally  beneficial  to ASD students.

PALS set a $200 limit on the request forms for the teachers, but made exceptions for a couple of special items that went over budget. In an end of the year vote, PALS members approved 9 requests from 8 schools, purchasing equipment worth over $2,000 for Seminole County ASD programs.

Over summer, the materials were ordered and members received them at the beginning of the school year. PALS members then hand delivered these items to the teachers. This was a reward to the teachers, as well as the students.

“The teacher was really happy when they received their requests. It was really nice,” Yap said. “It’s nice because you’re really making a difference, but it’s even better because I’m making a difference with something that I care about.”

With the success of this program already in place, PALS has plans to take it even farther.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see this program grow the next few years,” PALS sponsor Brit Taylor said. “It’s an awesome feeling to see funds we raise go directly to local schools and members of our community with autism. I feel like we are making a direct impact.”