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Autism Speaks fundraiser spotlights local cooking talent

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By Greg Summers

Autism Speaks has a voice in Lancaster County and it belongs to Evelyn Springs.And that voice is being loudly raised to find a cure for the brain disorder that affects her 6-year-old grandson, Malik.But Springs isn’t the only one lifting her voice and rolling up her sleeves.Several well-known cooks – including Leroy Springs & Co. chef Steve Archie, Bobby Bailey, Bruce Brumfield, Dr. Johnny Dukes, William Johnson, Liz’s Catering and Wallace Catering – will be helping her during the “Lancaster Cooks 2008 – Look Who’s Cooking” fundraising banquet from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Fairway Room at Lancaster Golf Club.WCNC meteorologist Larry Sprinkle will be guest speaker.The banquet will feature food ranging from barbecue to Cajun, with a little of everything else in between. Tickets are $40 each and the money raised will be donated to the annual Walk Now for Autism at Lowes Motor Speedway on Oct. 4.Malik, 6, was diagnosed with autism at age 2. He is now a student at North Elementary School and Springs is raising her voice to find a cure for the disease. Symptoms include impaired language development, erratic behavior and unusual reactions and responses.Autism came to the forefront of public awareness thanks to Dustin Hoffman’s role in the 1988 movie, “Rain Man.”“Some of the movie stars and celebrities got behind it and all of the sudden, we stopped hiding and admitted it was a problem,” Springs said.Yet, despite that sort of recognition, finding a cure for autism still lags behind. There is no medical cure for autism.According to Autism Speaks, autism receives less than 5 percent of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases.It’s the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the United States.More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined, with 67 children – just like Mailk – diagnosed with it per day. A new case is diagnosed almost every 20 minutes.“If you haven’t experienced it first hand, you don’t understand the impact,” she said. “My daughter doesn’t get a true night’s sleep unless Malik is staying with us and then she gets up several times out of habit thinking he’s wandered off because he’s not in the house.”“It’s frustrating,” Springs said.Bailey attended the 2007 banquet, but this is his first time to participate.He said he jokingly told Springs he would rather cook for her than part ways with any of his secret recipes.Bailey, however refuses to divulge what he’s whipping up for the banquet.“I really support what she’s trying to do,” Bailey said, laughing. “But I’m not about to tell you what I’m gonna fix.”Since 2005, Springs has raised more than $15,000 for autism research and she is trying to double that amount at the banquet.“The ticket sales just haven’t been that good and I don’t know why,” she said. “We haven’t heard back from as many churches this year as before.” Although “money is tight,” Springs said she isn’t about to give up.So far, she’s managed to raise about $5,000 thanks to donations from Founders Federal, Elliott “El” Close, Lancaster County Water and Sewer District, Children First Medical Center, Richard Plyler, Burns Ford Mercury, Mante Pediatrics, The Surgery Center, Lancaster County Clemson Club, Lancaster Memorial Park, Cody Tire, Special Occasions Rentals and Sylvia Willams’ Greenhouse.And the list doesn’t end there. Springs has also enlisted the help of two-time Olympic medalist Shawn Crawford.Springs said Crawford isn’t just coming to the Sept. 30 banquet.He is donating his jersey, running shoes and team bag from the Bejing Olympics to that night’s auction.Springs said that type of gesture speaks well of the “kind of man he is.”“He is giving us the biggest part of himself that he can so we can press toward finding a cure for autism,” she said. “I mean think about it; the running clothes you wore in the Olympics are something that you would want to keep for the rest of your life.“Shawn’s gift is running and here he is giving a part of himself away,” she said. “It’s just a true blessing.” In return, Springs will bake Crawford a cream-cheese pound cake.“Food is my gift and I know it,” she said, laughing. “It says in Proverbs 18:16 that ‘A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.’”And Springs isn’t joking about that, either.A peach cobbler made for the Carolina Panthers in June resulted in an autographed team football and a pair of tickets to the Oct. 5 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.That, along with an autographed and framed photo of Steve Smith, courtesy of Bojangles, are among the items that will be auctioned off Tuesday.“I believe every word of that verse and use my gift to open the door to others,” she said. “That’s my life scripture and I stand on it every time I read it.”Other items to be auctioned off include a night’s stay for two (with breakfast) at the Ballantyne Resort.For linksters, a golf round for four at the Ballantyne Resort – valued at about $300 – will be auctioned off, too.There is also a 14-carat, 1-carat diamond palmetto tree necklace donated by Lancaster Jewelers that will be auctioned off.However, there is room for more items for the live and silent auctions, said event co-chair Ginger Cook. To contribute an item to the auction, call Springs at 287-2578“This is a great way for the community to get involved in a nationwide effort to support those who are researching a cure for Autism, as well as those who are affected by this disorder,” said co-chair Janice McPherson. “We’re very excited about our event Tuesday night and we are looking forward to a great turnout, good food and successful live and silent auctions.”

Want to go?WHAT: “Lancaster Cooks 2008 – Look Who’s Cooking” a fundraising banquet for Austism SpeaksWHEN: 6:30-10:30 p.m. TuesdayWHERE: Fairway Room at Lancaster Golf CourseHOW MUCH: Tickets are $40 each (tax deductible)FOR INFORMATION OR TICKETS: 287-2578, 287-7767 or 283-5907