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Area businesses to shine blue lights for autism awareness

By Monday evening, random blue lights will shine in Rock Hill.About a dozen area businesses will replace normal fluorescent lights with bright blue lights, and some residents might be asking why.The answer is simple, said Meghan Caldwell, therapist and fundraising chair with Rock Hill’s Chrysalis Autism Center. “You’re supporting autism; you’re trying to raise awareness,” Caldwell said.About a dozen local businesses and residents have pledged to throw support behind a national campaign seeking to raise awareness about autism. Their method: Shine a bright, blue light on it.“It’s a growing health concern, and we just want to shine the light within our community,” Caldwell said.Entering its third year on Monday, the global campaign, called “Light It Up Blue,” seeks to shed light on autism by encouraging cities, towns and citizens to adorn their landmarks, houses and even clothing with blue in celebration of World Autism Awareness Day.For the first time this year, Rock Hill’s Chrysalis Autism Center will join the campaign by asking residents and businesses to shine blue lights, or at least wear something blue, on Monday.Caldwell and the center’s director, Tobie Presler, have been appealing to area businesses, asking them to support the initiative and donate to the cause.Businesses that donate receive a blue light in return, Presler said, and help bring awareness to a condition that’s become much more “prevalent.”Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism research and advocacy agency, began the Light It Up Blue campaign three years ago.Landmarks that have shined blue lights include the Empire State Building, Niagra Falls and the Paris Stock Exchange.Recent reports by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one out of 88 kids have autism. In South Carolina, the rate is one in 90.To Jim Morton, co-owner of the Morton & Gettys law firm in Rock Hill, those statistics are “pretty scary.” His firm wll be shining blue lights on Monday night.Mark Bonsky, co-owner of Thomas Gymnastics, said the exterior of his business in Rock Hill also will be illuminated by blue lights.“It’s important because it brings awareness to the children and the financial support from the businesses,” Bonsky said.“Anything that can help the children, we support it,” he said.Home Depot and other appliance stores with blue lights in stock have been selling them to businesses and residents wanting to support the cause, Caldwell said.“I know that there are several families here in town that have gone to purchase” blue lights, Caldwell said.Opened by Presler three years ago, Rock Hill’s autism center hopes to provide services to children diagnosed with autism at the most “critical” period of their diagnosis. Currently, the center serves six children, Presler said.Presler hopes that Monday night’s blue light campaign not only will raise awareness about autism, but also will bring attention to the center.Families need to know “that these services are available here in Rock Hill,” she said.Winthrop University has agreed to shine blue lights on Monday, as have Epiphany Lutheran Church, Oakland Baptist Church and Ebenezer ARP Church.PW’s Ice Cream is donating 20 percent of Monday’s profits to the Chrysalis Autism Center.Other local businesses taking part include Comporium, SCB&T, Rinehart Realty, Kirol Family Dentistry and the White Horse restaurant. Jonathan McFadden 803-329-4082

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