Wednesday, April 3, 2013

UNO Lights It Up Blue for Autism Speaks

An iconic oak tree at the University of New Orleans stood in the spotlight Tuesday in an effort to promote autism awareness.

"I just wanted to support autism awareness because we do have a growing population of students on the autism spectrum," said UNO Associate Dean of Student Affairs Amy A. King.

Autism is a complex brain development disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors, according to Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism awareness advocacy organization. The nonprofit has officially dubbed April 2 as "Light It Up Blue Day" and spearheaded autism awareness efforts around the nation.

The Washington Oak, named for a former provost at the University of New Orleans, stands behind the University Center on the Lakefront campus. It appeared bright blue from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday in support.

King worked with University Center Director Margaret Royerre, Senior Associate Dean of the Film and Theatre Department Professor Kevin Graves and Diane Bass, who is a UNO film and theatre instructor and a lighting expert to light up the tree, she said. Theater instructors brought over four additional spotlights from the theater department to light up the tree.

To help educate students, King set up an information table in the University Center and handed out "Light It Up Blue" stickers, she said. Alpha Xi Delta sorority wore blue. The sorority devotes its philanthropy efforts to Autism Speaks and last month raised more than $9,000 for the organization with a 5K run/walk on campus.

UNO Admissions, First Year Experience and Orientation joined the effort by wearing blue and encouraging awareness on social media. A contest promised free T-shirts to the best posts tagged #bluesontues and #lightitupBLUE on instagram or twitter.

Read about the UNO Alpha Xi Delta chapter's philanthrophy efforts in honor of Autism Speaks >>