The 14th Annual Enloe Charity Ball is Saturday, Dec. 8 at Marbles Kids Museum. This year's beneficiary, the Autism Society of North Carolina, is using the $200,000 raised to fund its Raleigh IGNITE center.
The peer-to-peer community center is a first of its kind in Raleigh, helping young adults on the autism spectrum build independent lives.
ASNC's Chief Development Officer, Kristy White said in North Carolina, as many as 1 in 57 children may be diagnosed with autism, a lifelong disability that affects how someone understands and interacts with the world.
White said there are nearly 19,000 children with autism in the state's public schools. The IGNITE program will help those who have graduated transition into adulthood.
"We have this program in Davidson, North Carolina," said White. "It's been in operation for a little over five years- incredible outcomes and we needed the funding to bring it right here to Raleigh, North Carolina and the Enloe students made that happen."
Enloe's Student Council organizes Charity Ball every year.
In 2017, the group surpassed its fundraising goal to aid the Raleigh Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness by $30,000, raising a total of $180,000.
This year, Enloe received 43 applications from area non-profits, all vying to be the coveted beneficiary of Charity Ball.
"People are coming to them," said Nate Barilich, Enloe Charity Ball Director. "They're trusted, they believe in them, and they know they're going to be reliable and make a huge impact in this community."
Enloe's Student Council narrowed the applicants to the top 10 based on values of inclusiveness and community impact. From there, they visited six organizations.
"When we visited the Autism Society, sort of immediately we knew that one was the one," said Benjamin Hogewood, Enloe Student Body President.
Student leaders said they were intrigued by the volunteer opportunities that would come from partnering with the Autism Society of North Carolina.
"We decided it's not just about the money," said Sanjana Tharuvesanchi, Enloe Student Council member. "It's about us interacting with the community that we're giving back to."
Throughout the semester, students have racked up hundreds of volunteer hours, building bookshelves, painting walls and doing other work to prepare and run the Raleigh IGNITE center, which opened its doors in October.
"We have built this IGNITE program side by side with them and their energy and enthusiasm says so much about our community and our hopes for the future," said White. "As a result of their efforts, I know our community is alive with purpose."
The Raleigh IGNITE program is now operating at 6300 Chapel Hill Road from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays with two-weekend activities per month.
Tickets to Enloe Charity Ball, taking place Saturday, Dec. 8 from 7-11 p.m. at Marbles Kids Museum are still available.
Donations can be made online.
"I hope we hold up a check for more than $200,000 and fulfill our promise to the Autism Society and really inspire student leaders in Raleigh and across the state that they can make a change in their community today," said Hogewood. "They don't have to wait."