Spring Forward For Autism (SFFA) started as a fundraiser in 2014 specifically to donate proceeds to Florida Institute of Technology’s Scott Center for Autism Treatment. At the Scott Center, monies raised through our Zumbathon event was utilized in their WISH Scholarship. WISH scholarships provide early intervention treatment for children with autism and related disorders to families that otherwise could not afford it.
Our 2015 fundraiser Zumbathon, we raised $20,000 for The Scott Center. In a letter from Ivy Chong, Director of Scott Center Autism Services and Training, the money raised from SFFA helped 30 families with a child, or children, aged 1-6 years, 31 families with a child aged 6.1 to 12 years, and 18 families with a pre- adolescent 12.1 through 18 years. Some were evaluations for diagnosis while others were given the WISH Scholarships allowing ABA (advanced behavioral analysis), or social skills group.
After realizing the need for awareness and how many families in Brevard County were in need, we decided to expand the reach and continue Spring Forward For Autism as our own 501-C3. After gaining 501-C3 status. Susan Belcher started donating her time as a Zumba instructor and giving portions of Zumba class proceeds to SFFA. We also hosted additional events such as a Zumba Dance Party in October 2015, a Holiday Rummage Sale in December 2015, and our biggest event in April 2016. These events allowed SFFA to support the following organizations, events, and families:
- The Scott Center for Autism – Florida Institute of Technology
- Parker Foundation for Autism and Child Development
- SOAK (Support Our Autism Kids)
- ASK US Florida
- Morgan Project
- Brevard Zoo (Temple Grandin project- sensory building)
- The IEP Advocate
- The Learning Lab at Our Lady Of Lourdes Catholic School
- Fear Family
- Purchase 1000 seat belts covers for First Responders and Organizations to distribute to families in need
- Develop a Safety Program- BE SAFE BE PREPARED to Parents, Law Enforcement, and First Responders
As we continue to grow, we are hoping to open a support and social club with a yearly membership fee. Our intention is to have multiple or possibly monthly social events. Monies raised from our activities will continue to impact families and organizations in need for assistance with evaluations, ABA/ Occupational Therapy/ Speech Therapies, Tutoring/ Educational needs, Sensory Aids/ Tools, Autism Awareness Vehicles, Guidance, and Social Activities for Families affected by Autism.
Most importantly, as we look to the future, we are excited to present in a combined effort with the Parker Foundation For Autism and Child Development ideas for our ground breaking and much needed S.E.A. Discovery Center (Sport, Education, Arts). Please stay tuned as we grow our ideas and start on this exciting adventure.
Susan Belcher is a Founder of Spring Forward For Autism. A mother of two boys, ages 5 and 7. Zane, who is 7 years old, is diagnosed with epilepsy at 3 1/2 years and Autism Spectrum Disorder shortly after.
Understanding all of the physical, financial, emotional and time investments needed as a parent of a child on the spectrum, Susan is passionate about bringing resources to other Special Needs children and adults in the Brevard Community. Working alongside other organizations, Susan and Spring Forward for Autism are bringing unity and support in the Autism Community, and fostering Autism awareness to the entire community.
“I owe it to my children to never give up, never back down. I can make a difference not only in my son’s life but also build a strong foundation to make sure no child on the Autism Spectrum is left behind. We owe it to these children to set them up with tools, skills, and support to lead a successful and fulfilled life.”
“This is my life. This is my heart.”
Sheila Schmitt is a founder of Spring Forward for Autism.
“February 14, 2012 was a day that changed my life, amazingly for the better. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40. I spent the next year and half going through chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and reconstruction. That diagnosis changed my life and I realized how truly short life is. I am happy to say I am a Survivor.”
“Before that, I worked in banking and healthcare for over 20 years and was involved in many charitable organizations. My husband sold his company after 25 years, and I left behind a career that I found both gratifying and challenging. We were both ready for a new adventure. We were blessed to be able to travel the world for 6 months. Now we enjoy our time with family in Florida, traveling, and our North Carolina Mountain Home.”
“In 2012, I met Susan Belcher. We were both Zumba Instructors. We danced to relieve our stress and worries. Although the challenges we faced were very different, we felt an instant connection and a similar desire to help others in need. We quickly became great friends and partners in our mission. I met Susan’s family, and they became an integral part of my life. It was the ﬁrst time I got to know an Autistic child. Zane was 5 years old and is diagnosed with high functioning Autism. I fell in love with this unique and very special little boy, as I did his little brother Quinn. I quickly realized how difﬁcult it is for families to afford and obtain the needed resources and therapy for their child. This revelation made me want to collaborate with Susan to help people in need of those services.”
Where it all began…
“Over coffee one morning, Susan and I decided that we could do more to beneﬁt families in Brevard County affected by Autism. This is how Spring Forward for Autism began. Each year we became more inspired as many of our friends and family showed interest in joining our efforts. Within two years, SFFA has become a signiﬁcant contributor and resource for the many families challenged by autism in Brevard County. In 2015, we incorporated under a 501 (C3) Tax Exempt Organization. Since then, we continue to grow. I am so thrilled to be a small piece of the solution to a complex puzzle.
Our Board Members
- Susan Belcher
- Sheila Schmitt
- Meegan Alphin
- Richard Feinberg
- Donna Feinberg
- Susan Erickson
- Crystal Starr
- Mark Fontaine