More than 100 golfers teed off at River Oaks Golf Club to support an Island boy with autism.
The Austin Against Autism fundraiser drew 130 supporters June 29 for a golf tourney and basket auctions for Austin Irons, a 6-year-old boy with autism and Russell Silver Syndrome, a growth disorder.
Austin is the son of Matthew and Stephanie Irons, and grandson of Tom Rodriguez and Linda Irons. Rodriguez has hosted a golf tournament before, but went all out this year with a commitment this year to supporting children like his grandson.
"This is the first time we've blown it open like this and done it this big. In the last few years I've just been doing it on my own," Rodriguez said. "But this is actually the first time we got a committee, we got the baskets, we went all out."
Committee members hoped to raise $10,000 through the tournament.
"He's a very happy-go-lucky little boy," Rodriguez said of his grandson. "Because he has severe autism, and we just have learned how to deal with it. We know what sets him off, we know what he likes, we know his comfort zones. Because it's a newly recognized affliction that's only been identified, I think, in our last generation, I thought let's try to do something that can help him and other children."
Rodriguez was moved by the support of golfers and River Oaks, who hosted the tourney.
"These people were so generous to come out and do this for us. It's breathtaking. I had a hard time getting through my welcoming speech, I was so choked up," Rodriguez. "I looked out at 130 people, half of them don't even know me, and they come out to give their time and their money to help out my little buddy here."
Rodriguez called the tourney, which included Pro Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas among the golfers, "an eye-opening experience."
"The generosity of people was just breathtaking," he said. "I mean, perfect strangers taking time out from their day and their work schedules to come out and support a cause for somebody they don't know. Just from the goodness of their heart they're able to come out and do this was just a tremendous experience."
Those who couldn't take part in the fundraiser can still support the charity by sending checks to: Austin Against Autism, c/o Linda Irons, 155 Old Carriage House Road, Grand Island NY 14072.