Sophomore raises $2,000 for autism research


Raising $2,000 requires a tremendous amount of initiative and creativity–traits that sophomore Matthew Benjamin Romero-Salas displayed when organizing Paint it Blue, a dinner fundraiser that took place on April 12th at the Pleasanton Masonic Center.

All proceeds went towards C.A.S.T.–the Creative Autism Solutions Team–in hopes of aiding other families with autistic relatives through daily challenges. Romero-Salas and other volunteers served Italian food and auctioned off exciting items to the guests. About 150 to 175 people went to the event, and through their collective efforts, were able to raise $2,000. Romero-Salas says he was motivated to help out C.A.S.T. because of his experiences with his autistic brother.

“Me and my brother are so close, and seeing his struggles–I didn’t want other people to go through that,” Romero-Salas said.

The funds the event raised were used to provide staff and volunteer training for C.A.S.T. members, as well as support for their parent-mentoring program. A part of the funds also went to an up-and-coming East Bay Autism Coalition.

“I am both amazed and humbled by Matthew’s efforts,” C.A.S.T. director, Annette Musso says. “He’s a young man who recognizes that there’s a need in the community, finds an organization to serve as a catalyst which can fulfill the need, creates a solution then, most importantly, makes it happen.”

Because Paint it Blue donated all proceeds as opposed to profits, Romero-Salas and his friends had to put in a lot of time and effort to gather help.

“I went door to door to each establishment to collect donations for auction items at the event,” Romero-Salas said. “I had to motivate everyone to participate and help out.”

“We were setting up tables, and just making sure the whole event went smoothly,” volunteer Karyn Utsumi said.

The end result was worth it. Not only did Romero-Salas raise thousands of dollars, but he spread autism awareness through C.A.S.T. as well.

“With the incidence of autism rising each year, it has become of paramount importance that people and communities gain at least a basic understanding of autism…what it is, the challenges it presents to those who have and live with the condition, and most importantly, the BEAUTY and GIFTS that are inherent in people on the autism spectrum,” Ms. Musso says. “It’s time we look at each other’s differences as beautiful and as gifts and opportunities to learn from each other!”

1 in 78 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which can be tough on families and friends–emotionally and financially. By providing various methods of innovative support, C.A.S.T. believes that they can increase the level of communication and interaction between people with autism and the world.

“Once one understands the challenges that a person with autism lives with and the adversity they must overcome to accomplish that which comes so easily for most of us, a sense of respect and awe comes naturally,” Ms. Musso says. “The result…a community in which everyone is loved, welcomed, and accepted for who they are right now! What a beautiful place to live!”