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Nation's first autism history museum to open in Okemos

January 18, 2022
<p>Xavier DeGroat presents Athletic Director Alan Haller with an award at the Spartan Sports Supports Autism Acceptance event on Oct. 19, 2021.</p>

Xavier DeGroat presents Athletic Director Alan Haller with an award at the Spartan Sports Supports Autism Acceptance event on Oct. 19, 2021.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

A new history museum set to launch in the Meridian Mall will not only aim to raise autism awareness in the Lansing area, but will also make history itself as the first museum in the country dedicated solely to autism history.

On Feb. 4, the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation will unveil the museum following an evening of events. The foundation is inviting members of the public to join them at LAUNCH Trampoline Park for a pre-reception starting at 6 p.m. and the second annual Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation Dinner/Gala starting at 7 p.m.

Tickets for the pre-reception and dinner are available through eventbrite.com. The LAUNCH Trampoline Park will also be donating a percentage of that day’s ticket sales to the foundation, from those that mention the foundation upon ticket purchase.

“It feels terrific that I get to have community support,” DeGroat said.

Starting with dates as early as the 1920s, the museum will highlight autistic innovators and leaders such as Dr. Temple Grandin, Elon Musk and Andy Warhol. It will also include a sensory room kit for children with autism, creating a comfortable space for learning.

DeGroat hopes to not only educate people about autism but to foster acceptance.

“There is a lot to be said as far as how far we’ve come, but also where autism lays today, socially and economically,” DeGroat said.

Several community members will be awarded at the dinner for various reasons, including mentorship, leadership and philanthropy. Recipients include Virg Bernero, Kelli Ellsworth-Etchison, Joel Ferguson, Elaine Hardy, Lori Adams Simon and Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth.

The Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation was founded in 2018 with a mission “to create and promote opportunities for people with autism through advocacy, education, economic opportunities, and humanitarian efforts,” according to their website. The foundation is a proud partner of the WLNS TV 6 Connecting with Community project.

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