Celebration to help raise money for autism

Mardi Gras 2 FTWBy Taylor Rexrode
Staff Writer

When thinking of Mardi Gras, colorful artwork and jazz music, Waco is not usually the first place that comes to mind.

A Mardi Gras Celebration of Art will host its Super Friday Event art show from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. Today at the Legacy Café on Austin Avenue. The event allows students to show their creative works while raising money for the Heart of Texas Autism Network.

Tickets for the show are $15 at the door. Dress code at the event is Mardi Gras themed and there will be live jazz music as well as hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

Guests will be entered to win a 37-inch flat-screen television and there will be 30 different raffle prizes, including original artwork, spa packages and a tote of home and kitchen products valued at $1,000.

A panel of seven judges will look at each artist’s work. The Mardi Gras Celebration of Art will hand out more than $5,000 altogether to the winners, ranging in age from pre-K to adulthood.

The art show is in its third year and has raised over $14,000 for HOTAN so far.

Event coordinator Betsy Klesse hopes this third year will raise $15,000. She says the money raised helps give scholarships and career assistance to autistic children in Texas.

“People with autism often have a special gift,” Klesse said. “The purpose of this organization is to help them get education and jobs. We want to build rapport with businesses to help these kids with autism.”

Klesse started the event for her son Jonathan who lived with autism until his death at age 26. She wants the annual art show to raise awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a brain development disorder that affects approximately one in 88 children.

People with ASD can have moderate to severe difficulty with motor coordination, attention and other health issues. They can, however, excel in visual skills, music, math and art.

Klesse says that since the event does not specify competitors as having ASD or not, it shows the equality of artists from all ranges of cognitive ability.

“Anyone can enter the show,” Klesse said. “This event educates the community that these artists, whether autistic or not, are equally talented and capable.”