Our Founder's Story
One Mother’s Heartfelt Wish
Carrence Bass founded Making Strides For Autism, Inc. (MS4A) while working from her dining room table. A disabled veteran and mother of a son with autism had helped families for 5 years find resources needed on their autism journey. Since her son was first diagnosed with autism in 2009, she began to isolate herself because of the lack of understanding by friends, family, and the community. She faced many struggles navigating through the maze of accessing care for her son and dealing with her own disability. The more families she helped, the more she realized she wasn't alone. Autism had no financial, racial, or religious barriers. It impacted everyone. Families were struggling emotionally and financially as they dealt with the disorder and more awareness was needed in the community. She wished it was a way she could do more.
In February of 2016, she reached out to the City of Jacksonville Disabled Services Division to partner and have Mayor Lenny Curry sign a proclamation and host the first World Autism Day Kickoff for families to unite and have access to local service providers on April 2. While Carrence was planning the event, an idea emerged to start a unique nonprofit organization. She reached out to fellow autism parents, Angela Clance, Meochia Clayton, Mary Foley, Kimberly Copeland, and autism advocate, Christian McNeill to sit on the initial Board of Directors. All had previously served as Chairman on the Walk Now for Autism Speaks in Jacksonville and are active advocates for autism in the Northeast Florida community. Through their support, she realized it was time to start a nonprofit consisting of families and supporters paying-it-forward to meet the unmet needs of autism families and connecting the community. The event was a success! Thus, Making Strides For Autism, Inc. (MS4A) was formed on March 31, 2016.
Her journey from Human Resources Generalist to President/CEO has been fueled by her passion for serving autism families, connecting the community, and touching as many lives as possible. Our team is growing, our families have grown and we continue to create unique partnerships that form an alliance of businesses and agencies through our Friends With Autism Community Outreach Initiative launched April 1, 2017.
Creating a more autism-friendly community is just the beginning. Each family and new opportunity we have become a part of has taught us and expanded how we offer services to the community. Through our Facebook page and other social sites, we touch families across Northeast Florida and beyond.
In October of 2017 we moved into our first office inside of the Northeast Florida Women Veteran's building. Through their organization we're able to offer our services and programs to women Veteran's with children on the spectrum. As well as assist military and Veteran autism parents transition their child's support services over into the civilian sector at the end of their enlistment.
Our goal is to open a 5000+ sf MS4A Center in 2018 and raise the capital needed to purchase the equipment to help the growing need for employment and work related opportunities for people with autism in Northeast Florida. MS4A's center is extremely unique and will offer a new level of support for Northeast Florida. While we're a small nonprofit. We're making major impact! We're creating the more autism-friendly Northeast Florida community of tomorrow.
Join us as we go From Small Steps, To Making Strides for autism!
Founder and Making Strides For Autism, Inc. Team
From Small Steps... To Making Strides
- March 31, 2016 - Making Strides For Autism, Inc. (MS4A) was founded.
- April 1, 2016 - Through the collaborative efforts of Making Strides For Autism, Inc., City of Jacksonville's Disabled Services, Division, and Autism Speaks - Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry signed the Proclamation declaring April 1, 2016, World Autism Awareness Day and the month of April National Autism Awareness Month.
- April 2, 2016 - Partnered with City of Jacksonville Disabled Services Division and Autism Speaks - Jacksonville to host the World Autism Awareness Day/Light It Up Blue Kickoff at Hemming Plaza. Over 150 families attended and 10 local service providers set up to offer information about their services to families.
- April 2016 - Hosted Art Touched by Autism. a silent auction displaying to art pieces of local artist and collaboration pieces by artist and children on the autism spectrum at Downtown Cigar Lounge - DCL AID. The silent auction was part of Downtown Vision, Inc.'s Art Walk.
- August 2016 - Partnered with UF Health Developmental Pediatrics and Hope Haven to host the 1st annual Backpacks-4-Autism School Supply Drive. 56 children living with autism received free backpacks and sensory bags.
- November 11, 2016 - Joined Northeast Florida Advocates for Autism and Related Disabilities, Inc. to host the 1st annual AUmazing Cornmaze Festival/Fall Festival at Conner's A-maiz-ing Acres. 300 families enjoyed a fun autism-friendly day on the Conner's farm.
- April 1, 2017 - In a collaborative effort, Making Strides For Autism, Inc. and the City of Jacksonville's Disabled Services Division, Mayor Lenny Curry signed the second Proclamation declaring April 1, 2017, World Autism Awareness Day and the month of April National Autism Awareness Month in the city of Jacksonville, FL.
- The 2017 Proclamation launched the Friends With Autism Community Outreach Initiative that will provide Free online educational materials for the community and Popup Sensory Break Rooms for autism families to enjoy community events, festivals, and venues.
- April 2, 2017 - Partnered with the City of Jacksonville Disabled Services Division to host 2nd annual World Autism Awareness Day Kickoff at Riverside Arts Market.
- June 14, 2017 - Trained the City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Summer Camp counselors on creating a more autism-friendly summer camp program.
- July 23, 2017 - Partnered with Texas Roadhouse - Orange Park to host 1st Autism-Friendly dining experience on the First Coast at a Dine-to-Donate FUNraiser. The event is now held monthly every 3rd Monday of the month from 4 pm - 8 pm.
- August 5, 2017 - Partnered with Embrace Community Center, Northeast Florida Advocates for Autism and Related Disabilities, Proactive Life Skills, We Rock the Spectrum, and Sawgrass Marriott Resort and Spa to collect school supplies and host the 2nd annual Backpacks-4-Autism School Supply Drive. The supply drive provided 145 backpacks to autistic children in Northeast Florida. Making Strides For Autism, Inc. and Proactive Life Skills hosted their Back to School Bash preparing autism families for success as they return to school in the Fall of 2017.
- August 9, 2017 - Received a generous grant from Merlin's Magic Wand Charity to take autism families on the 1st Gift-a-Wish Inclusion Trip. Families traveled to LEGOLAND Florida in Orlando on a deluxe Annett charter bus for a magical day out. LEGOLAND 's staff provided V.I.P. park tours, 2 private sensory rooms, and an educational experiences for 16 First Coast autism families.
- August 12, 2017 - Partnered with Morale Welfare and Recreation at Navel Station Mayport and base School Liaisons to offer our Popup Sensory Break Room and resources to military and veteran autism families for their Back to School events and future community events.
- September 2, 2017 - Hosted the 1st annual Jeepin' 4 Autism Charity Jeep Run. Started at 4 Wheel Parts headed to Palm Valley Outdoors. For the 1st time 64 Jeep Enthusiast from all over Florida and Georgia rode to promote awareness, acceptance, inclusion, and support for First Coast autism families.
- September 10, 2017 - Partnered with Velocity Air Sports - Jacksonville to host a monthly Autism Birthday Wish Club Party for children living with autism and special needs. This event is part of the Friends With Autism Community Outreach Initiative. It is held every 2nd Sunday of the month from 9:30 am - 11 am.
- September 22, 2017 - Started the Jax Bridges Program with the Jax Chamber Entrepreneurial Growth Division that connects small companies with opportunities to do business with larger corporations. The program will provide support needed for our community employment program for autistic adults.
- October 1, 2017 - Moved into our first office inside the Northeast Florida Women Veteran's building. In November, we will offer autism-friendly consulting, Popup Sensory Break Room rentals, online resources, workshops, resource navigation services, emergency crises assistance, and our Autism DADvocates Program (Under FND DADVOCATES Network to the community.
- November 8, 2017 - Our Friends With Autism 5K and Community Walk joined Mayor Lenny Curry's Journey to ONE Mayorthons. As well as launching our Autism DADvocacates Network's "Commit To Be Fit" Campaign. Commit To Be Fit is a 10 Week Fitness Meetup encouraging all dads and families to bring their children and join our Autism DADvocates running or walking JAX PARK with us as starting December 10, 2017.
- November 11, 2017 - Once again MS4A will join Northeast Florida Advocates for Autism and Related Disabilities, Inc. to host a AUmazing Family Fall Festival at Conner's A-maizing Acres in Hilliard, FL..
- December 10, 2017 - February 10, 2018 - Autism DADvocates Commit To Be Fit 10 Week Fitness Meetup will start at JAX PARKS. Meeting every Saturday morning from 10:00 am - 11:15 am at the following parks for 3 weeks each: Ed Austin Regional Park, Bob Hayes Sports Complex, and Losco Regional Park. Commit To Be Fit is part of the Journey To ONE Initiative, Jax Mayorthon Kid's Club, and Friends With Autism 5K and Community Walk Mayorthon.
What's To Come...
Over the next year, MS4A is committed to capacity building, increasing our funding sources, and creating long-lasting partnerships with new corporate sponsors, community partners, and Veteran organizations to serve our families and adults on the autism spectrum.
- January 2018 - Will offer the Friends With Autism Resource Magazine. Northeast Florida and surrounding areas ONLY magazine for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
- Spring 2018 - Will offer workshops, community activities/events, meaningful jobs, supported job training and our community employment program for adults with autism.
- February 25, 2018 - Will host the 1st annual Friends With Autism 5k and Community Walk at the Northbank Riverwalk/Riverside Arts Market, 715 Riverside Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32204. This event is sponsored by the City of Jacksonville's Disabled Services Division and local businesses.
- April 8, 2018 - Will host the 3rd annual World Autism Awareness Day Kickoff with City of Jacksonville Disabled Services Division at Riverside Arts Market.