Park West shines a light onto autism awareness

 In Albert Scaglione, Art & Gallery News, Articles, By Mitsie Scaglione, Park West CARES, Philanthropy
park west gallery autism awareness

Above, Park West staff present a check to Autism Society Oakland County

Dane Plaxton, 15, dashed about Park West Gallery’s lobby and exhibition spaces with his sibling and friends, all while anxiously eyeing a table of cupcakes.

Aside from the occasional warning from one of his watchful parents, he wandered about, pausing occasionally to observe a work of art that caught his attention.

In other words, Dane was being a teenager.

But Dane, along with 16,000 other individuals in Oakland County, face everyday challenges throughout their lives that make it difficult to be a child, teenager or adult due to autism spectrum disorder, which is why Park West Gallery stepped up to help better the lives of Michigan individuals affected by the disorder.

In honor of April being Autism Awareness Month, the Park West Foundation turned awareness into action on April 1 with a donation to Autism Society Oakland County.

Autism Society Oakland County is a grassroots non-profit organization formed in 1985, offering assistance to individuals with autism spectrum disorder in Oakland County. The organization provides resources to families as well as offering community grants to support impactful programs.

Nicky Yanke, Park West Gallery Human Resources Director, says she was honored to be a part of the donation to a local organization after personally knowing families and friends affected by autism. After speaking with Park West staff members about making a donation, she was made aware of the local organization.

“There is a lot of patience and time and love that goes into taking care of individuals affected by autism,” Yanke says. “Once I understood what Autism Society Oakland County’s mission is, I wanted to support a locally based autism organization.”

Barbara Brennan, president of Autism Society Oakland County, says donations like the one provided by the Park West Foundation are used for community grants and workshops that provide those with autism real-world skills, whether it’s job interview techniques, cooking tips or socializing.

“They’re going to need interventions early in life and resources later in life to help them to get through all those steps toward an independent, meaningful life that the rest of us just see and do,” she says. “Our goal is a meaningful life for everyone on the spectrum, whatever it looks like for them.”


Awareness begins with blue


Park West staff support autism awareness by wearing blue on April 1

Communities around the world are asked to wear blue clothing and light up their buildings and structures with blue lights to represent the millions of people impacted by autism. The awareness campaign is known as “Light It Up Blue,” and coincides with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

Park West Gallery has lit its building with blue lights, joining thousands of others around the world in lighting their buildings to help raise awareness in their communities. Staff members at Park West displayed their solidarity with the campaign by wearing blue and providing cupcakes and lemonade for the occasion. Among them was Brent Plaxton, who joined in the ceremony with his wife, Allison, their son, Dane, and daughter, Ivy.

“Any efforts that are made to increase awareness, to enable these people to live productive lives as a part of our community is appreciated,” Allison Plaxton says. “It enables our kids to enjoy normal things that would normally be too hard for them.”

Park West Gallery Autism Awareness

To join in the support, Autism Society Oakland County is holding its “Walk 4 Autism” fundraising event at Somerset Mall in Troy, Michigan from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on April 24. For more information on how to participate and donate, visit or email

The Park West Foundation, formed in 2006 by Albert and Mitsie Scaglione, dedicates funds and resources to bettering the lives of youth who age out of the foster care system. It has since expanded its causes to promoting art education around the country as well as contributing to worthy causes such as wildlife and ocean conservation and the betterment of society.

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