Oct. 19 to benefit and bring awareness to autistic children. Unfortunately, the evening ended with an offensive comment from entertainer Andy Dick that caused more than half of the audience to walk out of the show. However, prior to this incident, the night was going entirely as planned with tickets selling out and many of Fullerton’s elite & business owners in attendance to show support for Fullerton Cares.
The organization has done everything to help autistic children from creating sensory gardens to help autistic children with the tactile & sensory issues they may face, has given computers to programs that serve autistic children,and have donated a $1000 to every teacher with autistic students in the district to get the resources they need to help the autistic children in their class.
Some of the comedians who performed included Sam Tripoli, Greg Santos and Jackie Fabulous. The evening provided a variety of free food including sliders & skewers, as well as multiple alcohol vendors giving away free drinks to support the event. Heroes Bar & Grill, Joe’s, Vino Nostra, Abita and Bootlegger’s were some of the many vendors in attendance. Many people were seen dancing, talking with smiles over drinks, and heard laughing and cheering when the comedians came on stage.
Fullerton Cares was founded in 2009 after Bourbon Street owner Larry Houser found out that his son, Boyd Houser, had autism and started thinking of ways he could get involved to help autistic children and parents. They created the charity event Mardi Gras for Autism and then the Comedy Show for Autism and has been around since. Houser had advice for parents who’ve just found out their children have autism.
“The first thing I would advise is to come to our Mardi Gras for Autism event and find the resources they need to start their journey, we have over 50 autism specific vendors that are there to help our families,” Houser said, “If your child has autism, you should move to Fullerton because all of the resources are here.”
Before the show began, a video was played highlighting what Fullerton Cares has done over the years while the audience cheered and clapped, which was followed by a speech by Sharon Quirk-Silva the former Mayor of Fullerton, educator and current Assemblywoman candidate for Assembly District 65, who asked all the educators in the room to stand up while the audience cheered and clapped.
The host of the annual Comedy show, Comedian Sam Tripoli, spoke before his performance about why we was performing for the event.
“I have relatives who have autism and I’m friends with the guys who run this,” Tripoli said, “they asked me to do this, do a naughty show so I decided to come out and lend a helping hand.”
By naughty show, he was referring to the performances of Les Dolls, a highly regarded burlesque group from Los Angeles, in between comedians. During Tripoli’s performance, he joked about the burlesque dances at the show.
“I can tell some of you guys are depressed that the ladies left the stage, I apologize,” Tripoli joked while the audience laughed, “Let’s get weird for autism, huh?”
Fullerton Cares director Dan Ebert spoke on what the organization plans for the future.
“Eventually we want to open a school here in Fullerton,“ Ebert said, “but that costs about $30 million, so hopefully we’ll find some big donors here in the future and we can actually realize our dream and build this school.”
Heather Lane who has been a director for the past six years
“First of all, I’m Boyd’s aunt, the founders son so I have been living in a world with autism for the last eight years and I see how families deal with it and what it means to families. When Fullerton Cares first started it was really important that all these families are getting the help they need, the resources, the inclusion and the awareness and really helping anyone with a child with special needs but autism being our focus,” Lane said before giving advice to anyone who has found out their child has autism, “I would say reach out, there’s help out there, there’s people that want to help you, that want to support and build a family around you. There’s no way to do this without having that help and Fullerton Cares does that.”
John Skehan is a director of Fullerton Cares and has been a part of the organization “Since the inception.”
“My business partner Larry [Houser], who’s my best friend, his son was diagnosed with Autism and we tried to figure ways to assist in ways to help out, it seemed like the state was cutting funding to all the special needs programs in the area and that’s the first area to get cut, so henceforth that’s where Fullerton Cares came from,” Skehan said, “I just really appreciate the fact that everyone shows up and they come out in force, it’s just a testament to everyone that lives around here and how awesome it is that we can get together and do great things.”
Troy Lane, grandfather of Boyd Houser, described Larry Houser’s work with Fullerton Cares as “absolutely amazing”.
“He has done absolute wonders, putting on shows like this the past six years is just wild. It brings in money for the foundation and it benefits the children in Fullerton school’s,” Lane said before giving advice to grandparents who find out their child has autism, “get them into a program with somebody that’s been educated on the spectrum on how to enrich the child’s life, bring them in to this society, they want to belong, they just don’t know how yet. It takes a special knowledge and a special education on how to wake up that connectivity with the rest of the children and the world around them.”
Sharon Quirk-Silva was at the event to support Fullerton Cares and actually taught Houser’s son Boyd.
“First as an educator I have had student’s that are autistic, second as someone who knows the organizer. Larry Houser’s son was in my class at the beginning of the year and we worked together on some projects,” Quirk-Silva said, “I just believe that the more awareness that we have, for whether it’s autism or children with special needs, the more integrated that we become and the more understanding.”
Jesus Silva, educator, Fullerton City Council Candidate and husband of Quirk-Silva was in attendance with his wife to support Fullerton Cares.
“I’m here to support this great cause. As a teacher with kids who need a little bit more help, I think that it’s a great thing to acknowledge them and support them because it is tough for the parent’s and the kid’s to get everything they can,” Silva said, “it’s a great cause, we support causes like this and we love it, and we like to support our Fullerton community.”
“We’re here to support autism, that’s all there is to it, Larry’s a great guy,” Franklin said, “we’ve been here since day one. I’ve been in Fullerton for 26 years and it’s just amazing that any cause that comes into town that 99.9 percent of all the restaurants come out to support.”
“We’ve always been at any event he does, whenever he calls we’re there and he does the same for us, we do a lot of charity events as well,” Gomez said, “there’s a majority of the owners down here that help each other out when there’s a cause, whether a family’s in need of money or there’s a sick child, we always do whatever we can.”
Dena David, owner of Vino Nostra in Downtown Fullerton, has been working with Fullerton Cares for two years and was donating drinks at the event.
“I’m here to be apart of Fullerton Care’s Comedy Event, donate some wine and pour wine at the event,” David said, “I’m just happy to be here and it’s all for a good cause.”