More than $170K raised for autism

An autism fundraiser Saturday night raised more than $170,000 for four charities and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

"An Evening for Autism" drew more than 600 community members, athletes, celebrities, politicians and business leaders for a tropical-themed party in the home of Barry Saywitz, president of the Saywitz Co., a Newport Beach real estate brokerage and consulting firm.

Saywitz's 7-year-old son was diagnosed with autism at 2 and has graduated from an autism program that will allow him to take classes with "typical" children who have not been diagnosed with the syndrome. Saywitz has been championing early diagnosis as a way to help children get a head start in their treatment, potentially limiting some of autism's more adverse effects.

The event's proceeds will go toward Newport-Mesa's autism programs, ACT Today!, Autism Society of America, Easter Seals Southern California and Talk About Curing Autism.

During the event, the school district honored 10 of its employees for their work with autistic students.

Those recognized were Paularino Elementary School autistic preschool teacher Michelle Just; Paularino Principal Stacy de Boom-Howard; Harbor View Elementary School Principal Charlene Metoyer; Harbor View special daycare teacher Renee Tedford; Eastbluff Elementary School psychologist Kristy Becker; autism specialist Bonnie Hinton; Woodland Elementary School teacher Michelle Lambright; Lincoln Elementary School's Kathy Murphy; Kaiser Elementary science teacher Tricia Lamb; and autism specialist Tammy White.

— Britney Barnes

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