The Coast will set the stage for the world to celebrate and gain some understanding about autistic people through the International Naturally Autistic People (INAP) Awards Convention and Festival this fall, which was officially kicked off April 2, in honour of World Autism Awareness Day.
"The convention means that everyone with like minds around the world will come to Canada and see Canada's leadership model, how Canada's leading the way," said Leonora Gregory-Collura, founder of Naturally Autistic ANCA and organizer of the convention.
Dozens of dignitaries and supporters came to the Sunshine Coast Golf & Country Club Tuesday to show their support of the awards and convention set to run Oct. 1 to 4 on the Coast. The opening ceremonies will take place at the Christian Life Assembly on School Road on Oct. 1, and the awards ceremony will be held at the Raven's Cry Theatre in Sechelt on Oct. 4. In between those dates, several interactive workshops will take place for festival participants.
The INAP awards honour autistic people from around the world who excel in visual arts, literary arts, performing arts, sport and technology. They also seek to honour autistic entrepreneurs and community activists.
This year nominations have come in from 17 countries: Canada, Romania, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, U.S.A., India, Scotland, England, Malaysia, Italy, Pakistan, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Greece and South Africa.
When the awards were first started in 2010, just three countries took notice.
"How far we've been able to reach," Gregory-Collura said. "When I had the idea a number of years ago, it was 2007/08, I think people thought I was a little crazy, but that's OK. When I said it will reach consulates, it will reach the governments of other countries, it will reach ambassadors, and they're like 'huh, how do you do that?' And I said 'watch' - and we've done it."
On hand to congratulate Gregory-Collura and welcome the INAP awards and convention to the Coast Tuesday were Gibsons Mayor Wayne Rowe, Sechelt Mayor John Henderson, MLA for Powell River - Sunshine Coast Nicholas Simons and MP for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country John Weston.
Simons said he was unsure what Gregory-Collura wanted when she came into his office to tell him about the INAP awards and convention earlier this year.
"I couldn't quite figure it out, and you just wanted some moral support to say 'you're doing the right thing and you're making everyone feel included in a sector of our community that sometimes isn't' and I think that's always something to be celebrated," Simons said. "I think the message that you bring is that our communities have something for everyone and everyone belongs and you know it's a good message to bring forward and I hope that message gets reverberated around the world."
Each month from now until the awards and convention, there will be events for the public to learn more and opportunities to give to the awards that count on community support to take place.
If you would like more information, contact Gregory-Collura at 604-886-5720, email email@example.com or see www.naturallyautistic.com.
© Coast Reporter