SOFA’s first gala was a resounding success, bringing together individuals, families, and organizations dedicated to raising awareness, action, acceptance and advocacy in support of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) The event, held at the Milan Ballroom at the M Resort in Henderson, saw an impressive turnout of more than 300 people, mostly dressed with a touch of blue in honor of Autism day.
The gala began with officers of SOFA and special guests talking about the importance of SOFA’s mission which are the 4 A’s (Acceptance, Action, Awareness and Advocacy, in addition to starting the campaign to make our State the premiere ASD friendly State. The highlight of the speakers was a message from SOFA’s President on the groups effort in changing the lives of families affected by ASD. This was followed by a delicious full course meal and an amazing benefit performance by none other than The Concert King of the Philippines, Martin Nievera.
Throughout the evening, the event featured several engaging performances by Martin Nievera, one of the most inspiring moments of the evening was the collaboration between Santino, Robin and Ram Nievera, as they joined their father in an amazing rendition of footloose and sweet child of mine. Attendees were treated to an outstanding performance and were enthusiastic about joining in spreading the organization’s message.
The event also featured a video with several testimonials from prominent members of the community such as Judge Sunny Bailey and Chad Golightly on the struggles of families affected by ASD from finding resources to late development due to lack of awareness or denial. It is a powerful message that reminds people that ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 1 in 54 children in the United States. Making it one of the most common developmental disorders. One of the guests who was there with her son who is in the spectrum said “This was truly a magical night” as her son was so happy with the music and danced during Santino’s and his brother’s performance. The mother was in tears as she mentioned that they had not had a glorious night such as this in a long time. The event ended with a standing ovation for the performers, a call to arms by the SOFA leadership team followed by dancing until the last call.
SOFA’s strength lies in its leadership team’s ability to make things happen. They are led by Katrina Ojeda(President), an educator for 27 years who knows firsthand the struggles of a mother with a child in the spectrum, Jennifer Vinuya(VP) who has been working in the healthcare field for over 25 years and serves as a volunteer for several worthy organizations, Sally Balecha(Secretary) a successful realtor who is also a known community leader for years, Sonny Vinuya(Treasurer) a representative for the Governor’s office and longtime community leader and Gloria Caoile(Engagement Director) who is one of the most influential community leaders in the AAPI community.
Overall, the gala was a tremendous success, bringing together a community of people committed to raising awareness and support for autism. The event was a celebration of hope, resilience, and progress, and left attendees inspired and energized to continue their work towards a brighter future for individuals with autism.