AutismUp will welcome ESPN broadcaster Roy Firestone at noon Feb. 11 for the Opportunity Awards, a way to celebrate the players in the community supporting Team AutismUp, at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center, 123 E. Main St.
The honorees will be recognized for providing support, opportunity and successful outcomes for people living with autism. The AutismUp Opportunity Awards, presented by Wegmans, celebrates the 10th anniversary of MacElwain’s “miracle “game, where coach Jim Johnson and Jason “J Mac” MacElwain are the special event honorees.
AutismUp's MVPs and categories are: Champion, Greece Athena Community; Volunteer, Robert and Karen McGraw; Professional, The Kirch Developmental Services Center at Golisano Children's Hospital; Employer, Wegmans; and Awareness, Ann Cole.
The first-ever recipients of the Stand Up for AutismUp Scholarship Award in honor of McElwain will be given to high school scholars Tulio Ortega and Deirdre Kelly for their support of individuals with developmental disabilities.
The awards are born out of the spirit of the opportunity given to J Mac, a Greece Athena High School senior, four-year varsity basketball team manager and individual with autism, one February night in 2006 by his coach, Jim Johnson. In his first appearance in uniform, at the final home game of the season, MacElwain scored 20 points, with six 3-point shots and one 2-pointer, all in the final four minutes and 19 seconds. MacElwain then went on to write a book chronicling his rise to fame called “The Game of My Life” and has since run in the Boston Marathon, coached the Greece Athena boys varsity basketball and track teams, built a lively career at Wegmans and worked closely with AutismUp as his hometown cause.
Coach Johnson has over 30 years developing winning high school basketball teams, including 407 career victories. This year marks his final season and retirement as a coach. He plans to help support the efforts of AutismUp by raising awareness for autism and expanding opportunities in the Greater Rochester area to help the estimated 10,000 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. He shares his message about the power of the human spirit in his book, “Dreams Really Do Come True!”
Keynote speaker Roy Firestone is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning and seven-time cable ACE Award-winning host, interviewer, narrator, writer and producer. As the groundbreaking original host of ESPN’s legendary “Up Close,” “Up Close Classic” and “Up Close Primetime,” Firestone has interviewed more than 5,000 athletes, musicians, actors and political figures, as well as scores of writers and filmmakers. Sports Illustrated calls Firestone "The best interviewer in the business."
The Opportunity Awards VIP sponsor reception and meet-and-greet with Roy Firestone will begin at 11 a.m., with the lunch, awards and keynote address to be held afterward. Individual event tickets are $60 per seat. Sponsorships are available at many levels, which may include VIP reception, tables for 10 and special event recognition. Proceeds benefit AutismUp and the Greece Athena Basketball Program.
For more information on the Opportunity Awards, visit autismup.org or contact Beth Ciardi at 585-248-9011.