Category Archives: Kulturecity

Boo at the Zoo with Kulturecity

I am very far behind in my blogging and this is an event we attended back in October.
This past October, Kulturecity partnered up with the Birmingham Zoo to host an event for special needs families at Boo at the Zoo. We had never been to a night time zoo event, so the boys and I got some tickets and went. The event was free and had lights and Halloween decor, games and a section for trick or treating.

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Having never been to a Boo event, we were unaware that we could dress up for this, so we didn’t. We may still not even if we go again, because Superman doesn’t dress up. In fact, he has boycotted Halloween ever since he was nine. That’s another story, but suffice it for me to say, he put on his earmuffs and went down there because he thinks Julian of KC is a cool guy. It makes me wonder if I can start saying things like “If you don’t carry out the garbage, Julian will be sad” and “Julian wants you to wash my van.”

I think I could be on to something.

We arrived at the zoo together with a host of other families with their special needs kids. It was lit up and ghostly and even though the line was long, we got in very quickly.

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When we got in, We picked what we wanted to do first, which turned out to be the haunted train ride. We headed down to the train and stopped to admire the swans at night.

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They were running two trains, so again, the line was short and sweet!

Our very cheerful, but blurry, conductor:

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After we rode the train, we went through the trick or treating. We didn’t know what to expect, so we didn’t bring bags. We didn’t know there would be trick or treating, or trains, or lights everywhere, or ANYTHING.
One booth had two full size kit kats. Guess who snagged one?

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There was a cute show with Minions and some wildlife, so we sat in and watched it. It was fun.

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When we were finished there, there were sensory tables set up. Both boys said that was their favorite bit. Well, that and candy…these ladies were so nice.

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The thing that surprised me the most was that Superman actually got on the carousel with me and his brother. He doesn’t care to ride rides, but he got in a seat with us and we all rode together.

All in all, it was a great night! There really is something to be said about spending your time with a group of families who all know your struggles through virtue of their own. 2014 was a year of miracles as far as I’m concerned, and we owe credit for several of those to Kulturecity. Remember and check them out if you haven’t at Kulturecity.org

How a few simple clicks can help a small non-profit AND Autism families worldwide

For those of you who haven’t figured it out already,  Kulturecity has my heart. I believe in the vision of this organization. Having lived with Autism for the lifetime of an 18 year old, I’ve seen the lack of acceptance from others first hand from the “Pardon me, but would you mind telling me what’s wrong with him?” lady in the grocery store to the old man at the DMV who needed more compassion than I was able to give to the cruel behavior of kids. I’ve also seen some of the most incredible acts of beauty and humanity, more, even, than I can list.

Coming up in November, there is going to be a gathering, Websummit, in Dublin. There is a stage called “People’s Stage” and the speakers are selected through votes, votes from people like me and you. Kulturecity wants to send a speaker, Julian Maha, to this summit to talk about Autism and how employing those with Autism can benefit the tech community and how businesses can make themselves more adaptable to people with Autism. The opportunities he will have to network and  get the word out about KC and its vision are phenomenal.  So here is what I need from you people, because I want him there. My drive for this is not a selfless act. The greater the reach of Kulturecity, the greater its impact will have on my son’s future and the futures of other young people like him. Let’s make this happen.

Go to the Web Summit People’s Stage voting page and vote for Julian Maha. It will take less than 30 seconds to get your vote in. You will have to submit your email address but can unsubscribe at any time. It really is that simple. It works just fine from a mobile device, as well.

Please don’t forget! If you live in Birmingham, the hero:Kulture party is coming up in October. Buy a ticket and go have some fun!
If you own a business, your impact can be even greater. You can buy a sponsorship and get tickets to the event along with some fine advertising. Just go here and you’ll find the info you need.

Your simple clicks can affect the lives of kids all over the world. Please take a stand with Kulturecity.

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Kulturecity’s Upcoming Halloween BASH! Don’t miss it!

If you live around Birmingham, here is an event that you aren’t going to want to miss this coming Halloween season!  Kulturecity’s Junior Board is hosting a costume party fundraiser called hero:KULTURE

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Come out and come dressed as your favorite superhero! Nacho Libre!

Here is what you will need to know. First, if you aren’t familiar with Kulturecity, please, learn all you can! If you have a loved one with autism, do it for them! You will learn something valuable. If you have no loved one with autism, do it to enrich your life.
Check my tags for my personal experiences, go to their website Kulturecity.org, read their social media, follow them on facebook and twitter and just google it. In the meantime, here are the cliffs notes.

Kulturecity is a young non-profit based out of Vestavia Hills, Alabama. It is a little over one year old. They take the funds they raise and use them to reach directly out to families affected by autism and provide them with the necessary tools and therapies their children need for success. These tools and services are often expensive and not paid for through insurance. Did you know that a non-verbal autistic child can use iPad apps to be able to communicate? One of the goals of this organization is to put iPads in the hands of children with autism. My son is (very) verbal. They gave him one. He uses it to (take selfies…j/k) keep track of his appointments and necessary daily tasks. He has checklists on it for things he needs to remember but can’t, contact info for people, lists of meds, and so on. He has a form on it for special requests for jewelry he makes.

Another thing they do is place weighted therapy blankets in the hands of kids who need them. A therapy blanket is heavy and provides sensory stimulation that our kids need while they sleep. They are expensive. I made my son’s. The supplies alone cost $125. These blankets are very often out of reach for these kids.

Another thing they do, and this is not the last nor the least thing, but do a little research and don’t just take my word for it…they are brainstorming ideas to help get autism families out into the community not just for the sake of the families and the kids, but for the sake of the communities as well. Our kids have so much to give! We often keep our distance because of a lack of acceptance from others. There are families living with autism who have even been asked to find new churches and can’t even go to their chosen house of worship because other people were unable to accept having their child as a member.

Now, here is what you need to know about this event. It is on Friday, October 17 at Rosewood Hall at SoHo Square
2850 19th St South, Homewood, Alabama 35244

Come dressed as a superhero or heroine and come ready to party!
Tickets are $25 available in advance HERE and $30 at the door.  Dinner will be provided, there will be a cash bar available.  Music will be provided by Will and Sarah Mason, DJ Syndicate, celebrity DJ Full Service Party, and some surprise guests.  I LOVE surprise guests! The party will also include a best costume contest along with amazing prizes. There will be a cash bar and they will be serving several mixed drinks including a ZOMBIE-rita. I’ll have 13.

There will also be a raffle and to enter the costume contest, bring a new toy to donate as your contest admission.

If you decide to go through Amazon to buy your costume and supplies, you can further support KC by going through their Amazon Smiles link.  Amazon will donate a portion of all purchases bought through this link to Kulturecity. In fact, just use their link for your Amazon shopping for the upcoming holidays and, well, forever.
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If you own a business, there is even more you can do for this wonderful 501c3 Non-profit. You can give a fully tax-deductible sponsorship for this event. We need sponsors and there are perks that come with it.  By perks, I mean some great advertising, free tickets and free drinks!
There are three tiers of sponsorship $1000, $500, and $250. Each tier comes with its own set of perks, so please see what you will get for your sponsorship.

SPONSORSHIP LEVELS

SUPERMAN ($1000)
•  Company name and logo recognition featured as SUPERMAN Sponsor on main HD screen.
• Company recognized by Host at event.
• Company recognized on all Kulturecity website and other social media.
•  Sponsor gift.
• 12 tickets to event
.• 12 drink bands

WONDER WOMAN ($500)
• Company name and logo recognition featured as WONDER WOMAN Sponsor on 3 tables.
• Sponsorship recognized on KultureCity website and other social media
• 6 tickets to event
• 6 drink bands

BATMAN ($250)
• Company name and logo recognition featured as BATMAN Sponsor on 1 table.
• Sponsorship recognized on KultureCity website and other social media.
• 2 tickets to event.
• 2 drink bands.

We would really appreciate your support! By committing a sponsorship, you will make a huge impact on a local, small non-profit and an even greater impact on the lives of kids and families living with autism every day, Thanks.

 

Kulturecity, the Birmingham Barons, and WIAT 42

About 2 weeks ago, my friend, Brenda sent me a message on facebook that we were invited to an event at the Birmingham Barons game. The event was hosted by Kulturecity and it was an iPad giveaway where 14 kids with autism were set to receive an iPad. They had made an agreement with KC that for every game they won this year, a kid would get an iPad. I was shocked and surprised. My son is 18, and something I’ve learned in our journey is that when they reach a certain age, sometimes doors start closing.  I’m still unsure why that is, except maybe because there is so much focus on early intervention that we forget that these kids who are grown and have had sometimes a lifetime of therapy services and hours upon hours of work and effort put into them by doctors, counselors, teachers, therapists, their parents and siblings and scores of loved ones and last but not least, themselves, they still need people to help them keep their foundation strong. Autistic kids grow up to become autistic adults, and sometimes even though they are working and getting out in the community, they still need quite a bit of support even though they often age out of being able to get that.

So! I’ll get off my soapbox. I was surprised that the boy got picked to receive an iPad. I got prettied up and got him moving and getting ready to go. There were quite a bit of dramatics over the fact that he was having a non-scheduled Sunday event, though I had been telling him for a week to be prepared for it.  To take the sting out of it, I went into the hidden Christmas gifts and picked out a new shirt for him to wear, and that worked quite well. He got ready and we left.

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I had never been to a pro baseball game, so for me, this was just as much fun as anything. We drove downtown and found a parking spot pretty easily, right next to this post.

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The boy has always taken great delight in off-color humor, which really got him in a lot of trouble in elementary school. Leave it to me, though, to park us right next to the post that said “SO DRUNK” with a backwards N…he immediately burst into laughter. And so it began.

We walked a few blocks down to Regions Field and found the gate where our names were on a list, got our tickets, and went inside. Wow! It was so big. I took a pano pic with my phone.

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Because we arrived early, we got to get two free T-shirts, which was cool. We found a concession stand that sold Coke Zero, got him a drink and found a place to sit, looking at the ballpark, listening to the announcer, just getting used to being there. He has never transitioned well, so I try to always give him a little extra time to get settled. Then, I got a message from Brenda, saying it was time to meet up with our group and get ready to do the presentation. We headed over.

Within just a few minutes, he was telling me he was feeling overwhelmed from the crowd. I kept him distracted. I introduced him to everyone I could, introduced him to Julian, talked about getting another drink, how we would go out on the field soon, etc. And we did. A sweet man came over and took us as a group to the elevator. Everyone got on. Oh man, does he hate a crowded elevator. Talk about stretching! I stretched him that day. We got on the elevator with 15 people and he was giving me the stink eye the whole time while I pretended not to notice. Then, we went out onto the baseball field, in front of the crowd. Insta-hot = insta-issues. The slightest bit of sweat and he becomes overwhelmed. I am thankful that he is verbal and able to tell me when he needs help.

“Mama? Can we go? Mama, can we go? Can we go? Can we go? I’m hot. I’m hot, Mama. I can’t do this.”

“Just be patient, Son.”

“Can we go? I’m hot.”

“I’ll buy you a drink and we will go to Michael’s.”

“I’m hot, Mama. I don’t want an iPad. I just want to be in the air again.”

“I’ll let you run the air on high all the way home.”

Keep him distracted.

The announcer was going on about autism on the loudspeaker, but I didn’t hear any of it. The boy was handed his iPad. The whole thing seemed pretty chaotic, but maybe the chaos was just what was happening in our bubble. He had sweat rolling down his face and was sopping it up with the T-shirt he got for being early. I got him to walk with me to say hi and thank you to Julian. In this pic, he was completely overwhelmed but you can’t tell by looking at him. It has taken years of therapy to get to that point with his coping skills. Words cannot begin to convey how proud I am of this young man.

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I grabbed that pic and we beat it for the exit. Right then, we were approached by a young woman with WIAT, TV 42 in Birmingham who was lugging around what looked like a thousand pounds of camera equipment. She wanted to do a short interview for the news. I told her it would be fine, but we needed a cool place to sit if she was going to get anything out of him. As we waited for the elevator to come for us, we had a lot of the same conversation as before.

“I’m hot, Mama. I don’t want to be on the news.”

“You will be glad you did it after you cool off,  Son.”

“I’m hot, Mama. News is for old people.”

“Five bucks and you can pick dinner.”

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Right then, a player for the other team came up and did some stretches beside us where he was swinging his legs like a pendulum and I looked at the boy and his lips were twitching where he was trying not to laugh about it. The elevator opened and the sweet man who was helping us took us up to the second floor, where it is enclosed and there are couches and AC.  The seats up there are probably expensive. He became better very quickly, she mic’ed us up and got her equipment set up. Here she is. Don’t laugh. I’m not a professional, well, anything, but certainly not a photographer. IDK what went wrong with this pic. OK, you can laugh. I did.

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The man who helped us started to walk off and he turned around and came back and said “You know what? When you’re done, just have a seat and enjoy the game from up here.”

What a blessing! We would have had to leave otherwise. He did so well, I couldn’t make him go back into that heat.

We did our interview. They were very interested in his ear covers. He uses those to filter noise when we are in a high stimulation place, the grocery store, a waiting room full of kids, some restaurants, baseball games, etc.  They can be bought online or in gun shops or any store that sells sporting goods, even Wal-Mart.  By the time we were done, he had decided to give watching the game in the air  a chance (which I knew would happen if he would just hang in there, and he did)  and we said our goodbyes. We had a seat by the windows and he went and ordered a drink. The guys at the snack bar told him how much they liked his shirt and wanted to know where he got it. I made sure he knew to leave a tip in the tip jar.

The view of the field from the fancy seats is fantastic!

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At one point, the ball went crazy and flew up and hit the window right in front of us. According to the boy, watching sports in real life is way better than watching sports on TV, and maybe he is a Barons fan.
We sat and had our drinks and watched the game and started setting up the iPad using the park’s free WIFI. I sent texts to tell all of our friends and his doctors that we were going to be on the news, and to make sure they tuned in. The husband recorded it from home. My little one said it was awesome.

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Something I learned about the Birmingham Barons is that they are starting to have what they are calling “Autism Friendly” games at Regions Field. These are games with special seats (I’m not sure what that means),  reduced noise,  low stimulation and lower lighting. If you have an autistic child who may enjoy a game, that may be the right game for you to look into attending.

All in all, it was a great day. We got to attend the game, spend the day together, he received an iPad, we got to be on the news (and it wasn’t even a mugshot!) which, I knew he would love and he did, and maybe we can make some new friends.

Please don’t forget, Kulturecity is small and makes a huge impact. They can always use donations to help kids just like mine. Check them out at www.kulturecity.org

The iPad is loaded with apps he likes, like calculator, the calendar (so I never forget to tell him there’s a doctor’s appointment…his words, not mine), he’s using it really a lot. There’s some Angry Birds RPG, too.

And all it cost me was
5 bucks
He got to pick dinner
A trip to the craft store
Ran the AC on high all the way home
$3 drink at the snack bar

But what we really took away from it was priceless.

My First Experience with Kulturecity

About a month ago, my friend, Brenda, announced that she had a spare ticket to an event in Birmingham, the Kulturecity Kulture:ball and she was hoping to find someone to go with her. This was a fundraising event for the organization Kulturecity, a black tie affair, even, neither of which I had ever attended so I told her I would love to go. The next two days were a whirlwind of me locating something appropriate to wear (not a fan of dresses, any dresses…) because she asked on Wednesday evening and the event was Friday night.

Because my eldest child has autism, I am personally invested in finding organizations that are active in and around Birmingham, Alabama that can help him maximize his potential. Because I have this website, one of my goals is to make information about local disability resources available for families who may be like I once was, lost and searching for help. Let’s call that a 2x investment, then.

Kulturecity is a young non-profit with a goal of promoting not so much “autism awareness” (and really, WHO, exactly, is not aware?) but autism acceptance.  They want to see autism families out in the community, enjoying resources that we sometimes, well, can’t, especially if we have a child who has a serious issue with sensory things. They had been on my radar for a while, but I’m a little shy, and when Brenda came up with that spare ticket, I decided to go. Plus, she talks about Julian as if he is some kind of rock star so I had to check it out. They reach out often and to many families not just locally, but nationwide. They have provided kids with weighted blankets, iPads, therapy services, and even helped an autism family get into a home. They are also partnered with Toys AuCross America, another non-profit that mails toys to kids with autism. Who doesn’t love getting a package in the mail? And when it comes from Autism Santa, even better. They have mailed out somewhere in the vicinity of a THOUSAND toys.

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This is Julian Maha and his wife, Michele. Their son has autism and Kulturecity was born from an experience they had concerning him and an adult who was, well, lacking acceptance, so they aren’t just talking the talk, but walking the walk. We have all had experiences with those types of people. It is the kind of thing that can make you hard if you let it. Don’t let it.

The ball was so much fun! Dinner was included and so were drinks, although I stuck to diet soda for the night. I’m one of those “If I have one, I’ll have thirteen” people, so it is best if I just don’t start cause who loves to party? THIS girl! The speaker was a man named Tiki Barber, a football player who my husband can tell you all about, but I can’t, all I know is what I noticed about him while at the dinner. I took a few pics for B and for a lovely young lady who sat at our table, named Susan, and when they were chatting with him, I noticed he has this way about him that, when he talks to you, he treats you as if it just you and him and no one else.

After Tiki spoke, there was another speaker, M. L. Karr, a retired NBA basketball player and former head coach and GM of the Boston Celtics. There was food and mingling and then they brought out the auction items. The auction was awesome! There was a lot of local and non-local original art (I really, really wanted that metal rhinoceros head), some jewelry, and then they auctioned “Choice” of a pair of Iron Bowl tickets, autographed Alabama and Auburn footballs, and autographed prints from each team as well. The Iron Bowl tickets went for $3400! Alabamians do love their football!
All in all, the auction and pledges alone fetched over $25,000. It was a great night, and one I’m proud to be able to say I had a part of, even a small part.

Things started to wind down after that, and they made the announcement that every table had a free gift. I had noticed these cute burlap packages scattered around the centerpieces on every table so I picked one up and took the gift tag off and what did I find in it but this:

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I almost went around the tables and took them all and I’m not gonna lie, I did snag a second one but I didn’t want to be greedy! What makes a cork on a keychain special? This.

My son picks at his skin, specifically, his feet. He has torn off his toenails in the past! Picking at a cork simulates skin picking and the act of picking provides his brain with some sort of stimuli that it needs. The day I learned the cork trick is the day we started getting him on the road to no longer picking. We aren’t at 100% yet, but it’s just part of our journey. It’s called a fidget and as soon as I unwrapped that little bag of goodness, I was so thankful.

Here is a pic of what’s left of his current cork…

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So, check out www.kulturecity.org and see for yourselves what a difference they are making in the lives of autism families! Whether you may be in need of a service or have deep pockets and a love of philanthropy, they really are changing the world, one life at a time.