Autism Alliance of Michigan hosts 6th annual Michigan Shines for Autism Gala

Ron Fournier – author, nationally-recognized journalist - to keynote event

DETROIT, April 21, 2017 — More than 500 Michigan business and community leaders, legislators and Autism allies will gather at the sixth annual Michigan Shines for Autism Gala on Saturday, April 29 at DTE Energy’s downtown Detroit headquarters. The Gala, presented by the DTE Energy Foundation, will raise critical awareness and more than $700,000 to support the work and mission of the non-profit Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM).

The evening starts with a cocktail reception, raffle and auction with event co-chairs David Meador, DTE Energy, and Cynthia Pasky, Strategic Staffing Solutions. A formal program emceed by WJR host Frank Beckmann follows dinner and includes a lineup of distinguished speakers and performers who are on the autism spectrum. Individuals and companies working to improve the lives of Michigan residents and families affected by autism will be recognized.

Nationally acclaimed journalist, author and current publisher of Crain’s Detroit Business, Ron Fournier, will keynote the event, continuing the conversation of high expectations, community inclusion and acceptance. Fournier will also reflect on his personal journey, chronicled in Love that Boy, with his son, Tyler, while sharing stories of other loving-but-struggling parents.

Over the last five years, the gala has celebrated significant reform across Michigan.

  • In 2010, DTE was the first large company in Michigan to adopt a self-funded autism benefit, long before the state mandate passed.
  • In 2012, AAoM led autism insurance reform efforts with Lt. Governor Brian Calley, and David Meador, Vice Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer of DTE Energy.
  • In 2013, a Medicaid benefit was implemented for children and then expanded in 2015.
  • In 2016, critical seclusion and restraint legislation was passed, keeping our children safer at school through improved behavioral protocols and training. Professional licensing for behavior analysts was also passed, further protecting children receiving applied behavior analysis therapy.

“While much of the progress we have witnessed has benefited children in Michigan, we recognize that generations of individuals with autism did not, and could not, benefit from these evidence-based, life- changing interventions,” said Colleen Allen, president and CEO of Autism Alliance of Michigan. “The adult population faces a number of barriers, including but not limited to housing and caregiving shortages, a limited network of health care providers willing to accept adults on the spectrum, and an unemployment rate near 90 percent.”

Adults on the spectrum, like all adults, want meaningful work, yet only 16 percent are employed full-time. Of these, many are working beneath their skills set.

“Individuals on the spectrum have so much potential to thrive in today’s workforce,” said Meador. “At DTE, we’ve worked to establish programs to not only bring more employees with autism into the workforce, but also retain that talent by understanding each individual’s unique differences and strengths. When individuals with autism are matched with the right position and support, we’ve seen them consistently exceed expectations.”

The Michigan Shines for Autism Gala is also supported by premier sponsors PVS Chemicals and Strategic Staffing Solutions. Dozens of Michigan business and community leaders and legislators come together to support the gala each year, including the Women Advocating for Autism in Michigan (WAAM) committee, co-chaired by Josie Norcia and Andrea Jones.

Following the Gala, guests are invited to dance the night away at the Champions’ Night Afterglow featuring music from Your Generation in Concert (formerly 50 Amp Fuse).

About Autism Alliance of Michigan

The Autism Alliance of Michigan ( is a non-profit organization whose mission is to lead unprecedented collaboration to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their loved ones through education, access to comprehensive services, coordinated advocacy, dedication to community, and navigation.

About DTE Energy

DTE Energy (NYSE:DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Its operating units include an electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in Southeastern Michigan and a natural gas utility serving 1.3 million customers in Michigan. The DTE Energy portfolio includes non-utility energy businesses focused on power and industrial projects, natural gas pipelines, gathering and storage, and energy marketing and trading.  As one of Michigan's leading corporate citizens, DTE Energy is a force for growth and prosperity in the 450 Michigan communities it serves in a variety of ways, including philanthropy, volunteerism and economic progress. Information about DTE Energy is available at, and

For further information: For further information, members of the media may contact: Carly Getz, DTE Energy, 313.235.5555 Lauren Lewis, Autism Alliance of Michigan, 248.436.5606.