ALBANY, N.Y. – Monday’s “Give Back Event” by Chili’s Bar and Grill was cancelled after receiving backlash.
The restaurant was set to donate 10-percent of its dining receipts to the National Autism Association in honor of National Autism Awareness month; however, Chili's received negative feedback from its guests.
People complained because the NAA claims vaccinations can trigger autism.
Chili's issued a statement on today's decision, saying "We believe autism awareness continues to be an important cause to our guests and team members, and we will find another way to support this worthy effort in the future with again our sole intention being to help families affected by autism."
The Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region's Executive Director Janine Kruiswijk is disappointed in today's announcement because she said funding is critical for people diagnosed with the developmental disorder.
"The need in the community, not only for children but for our children that are grown into adults is absolutely critical," she said. "We have housing issues, educational issues, employment issues. This is the time when we really need that money for services and support."
Kruiswijk's daughter, Molly, has Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. The 26-year-old lives in Schenectady, and Kruiswijk said Molly is talented in game design but Molly still faces challenges.
"Our greatest wish for Molly is that she continues an independent life, that she finds the employment that she seeks and that her community is accepting and warm towards her," Kruiswijk said.
Kruiswijk hopes Chili's will think about donating its proceeds to the Autism Society of America, a group that helps those with the disorder break down the barriers they face with appropriate services and support, employment and college and community living.
"They come out of high school or college, and they go home and there are no services and support, and that's where they sit," Kruiswijk continued. "[They're] isolated, unserved or underserved, and it leads to some tragic outcomes."
The Autism Society of the Capital Region is working with Schenectady Community College to push support for students on the autism spectrum.
The Center for Disease Control released a study a week ago showing 1 in 88 people now suffer from some form of autism, a 30-percent spike from what it was just a couple of years ago. Kruiswijk believes if Chili's still intends on giving back to the autism community, her organization would be a great choice.
"We're very unique in that picture, in that we were really started as a grass-roots movement, very much started by family members and today we live and work and function right in the communities, in which the autism community lives," she said.