Ray Of Light Canada (ROLC), an Autism Awareness charity project founded in Montreal, is launching a social media campaign to foster better understanding, support and inclusivity for people with special needs within the community. Additionally, the charity is extending this campaign to helping anyone in need, including those who require mental health support as well as youth and young families who are at-risk or struggling financially.
Co-founder Charlotte Marie Flannery aims to raise awareness about the lack of support for adults with autism, disabilities or mental health struggles, and how this can lead to poverty and often, homelessness. There are no specific studies performed by the Canadian government on the homelessness rate of people diagnosed with autism, however some independent studies show an increased risk of almost 13% of homelessness in adults either diagnosed with autism or who show autistic traits. This is a high rate compared to the rate of autism being estimated at 1% of the population.
ROLC wants to spread positivity and support throughout these communities by encouraging acts of kindness throughout April, which is autism awareness month.
“I feel that acts of kindness, no matter how big or how small, all add up to spread a positive message of inclusion for everyone in our society,” says Flannery, who is herself a mother of two children diagnosed with autism.
ROLC is encouraging Canadians to post kind acts on social media using the hashtag #rainbowchallenge and tagging @rayoflightcanada so that every act can be shared throughout the autism community. Some ideas include:
- Buy a sandwich and a drink for a homeless person (or a warm drink on a cold day)
- Buy from or support a local business that employs people with developmental disabilities (for example t-shirt printing company Promo 21 )
- Donate to your local food bank
- Donate clothing and household goods after spring cleaning to a Renaissance location which helps support their employment integration program
- Collect toiletries to donate to homeless and crisis centres
- Use your hobbies and skills to help others (for example knit mittens for underprivileged children)
In December 2020, ROLC team up with SPERANZA MTL, a local charity supporting underprivileged and at-risk groups launched a GoFundME campaign to assist Montreal families who were struggling due to the pandemic. Together they raised over $15,000 in two weeks, which were used to pay overdue bills and rent, as well as distributing grocery gift cards and food boxes.
About Ray Of Light Canada
After her two children were diagnosed with autism, Charlotte Marie Flannery embarked on a mission to raise awareness about the disorder and funds for several autism charities. What started as an autism awareness jewelry collection to raise funds for
Trails Of Summer, a day camp for children with special needs in Montreal’s West Island, has turned into a support network for special needs families as well as additional
fundraising efforts, including the Ariana’s Sparkle Project benefiting Autism Speaks Canada.