The Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), a non-profit working to
advance research and provide support for individuals with autism and their
families, has been awarded a $100,000 grant as the winner of the 2009 Arizona
Benefits grant, funded by health benefits company Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM).
Mark El-Tawil, president of Humana of Arizona, named SARRC as the winner of the
grant during the Arizona Benefits Celebration of Giving dinner Thursday, Oct.
22, at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. Two other finalists for the award – The
Phoenix Public Library Foundation and Sun Cities Area Transit System Inc. – each
received a $10,000 grant from Humana.
With the $100,000 award, SARRC will create GardenWorks, a community-based
program designed to engage individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in
developing and sustaining a revenue-producing co-op garden.
“A diagnosis of autism is made in the United States every 20 minutes, and the
number of children expected to need extensive adult services over the next 15
years exceeds 380,000, which is roughly equal to the populations of Tempe, Yuma,
Flagstaff and Payson combined,” said Jeri Kendle, Executive Director of SARRC.
“Clearly there is a great need for the kind of training and mentoring
GardenWorks will provide for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.”
Kendle said the grant from Humana will provide needed resources for the SARRC to
implement the GardenWorks program, allowing the non-profit to involve the
community in a program to benefit individuals with ASDs. By developing a co-op
garden, SARRC will teach those with ASDs gardening and landscaping skills they
can use to work toward financial independence, while community members will be
encouraged to mentor individuals with ASDs to help them grow, harvest and sell
“Going into the third year of this program, Humana is committed to continuing to
give back to the communities we serve through programs like Arizona Benefits,”
said El-Tawil. “To help an organization like the SARRC find a solution to a
community need and grow in a way they might not have thought possible is the
heart of what this program is all about. We`re honored to be able to work with
the SARRC to help those with autism spectrum disorders learn valuable life
skills while raising healthy crops.”
The community judges choosing the recipient of the $100,000 grant included Jacob
Brown, Willis Insurance; Paul Dolby, Circle K; Marcie Cragg, The Gavin Group;
Rhonda Forsyth, John C. Lincoln Health Network; Tom Leander, Phoenix Suns; Peggy
Neely, District 2 Councilwoman for the City of Phoenix; David Strachan, Desert
Schools Federal Credit Union; and Cheryl Vogt, Marsh. Humana representatives on
the panel of judges included El-Tawil, president of Humana of Arizona; Steve
Macias, practice leader; Jennifer Willis, practice leader; and Jeff Chicots,
regional vice president.
Humana`s Arizona Benefits program awards a one-time, $100,000 grant to a
Maricopa County-based 501(c)(3) organization working to improve the mind, body
and spirit of residents. Fresh Start Women`s Foundation, a non-profit
organization dedicated to helping women help themselves, won the 2008 $100,000
award, enabling the organization to open a satellite center for women in the
East Valley. Mesa Association of Sports for the Disabled, a non-profit that
supports athletic programs for disabled athletes, used the 2007 $100,000 award
to purchase a truck and trailer that allowed it to increase the quality and
quantity of events for participating athletes.