Silicon Valley will soon be the home of a new diagnosis and treatment center for children with autism, thanks to the cooperative effort of four businesses and organizations.
At a press conference at its headquarters in San Jose, Cadence Design Systems, Inc., a global provider of software, hardware, methodologies and services, announced the beneficiary of its annual Stars and Strikes bowling fundraiser.
Out of a pool of about 30 applicants, a project for a pediatric specialty center at Good Samaritan Hospital's Mission Oaks campus in Los Gatos was selected. The project is headed by May Institute, a nationwide organization dedicated to providing health care services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, and the Silicon Valley Children's Hospital Foundation. Both organizations seek to address and treat the growing number of cases of autism in the Bay Area.
Saratoga Councilwoman Kathleen King chairs the foundation. King, the mother of a child with alpha mannosidosis, a rare genetic disorder that affects all areas of the body, wanted to provide a center in the Silicon Valley to help families cope, in addition to providing top-notch treatment. She said one of her inspirations is Mike O'Farrell, former vice president of Applied Materials and the father of an autistic child.
King said news of her son's diagnosis changed everything for her.
"If you're lucky, it just changes your life. If you're not, it devastates your life," she said.
Linda Durnell, vice chairwoman of the foundation, added that the center will be a guide for parents.
"People are in shock about the diagnosis and think, 'Where do I go now?' " she said. "And what we did here is provide the first step."
According to May Institute, 12 children are diagnosed with autism every day in California, which is about one child every two hours. Autism affects the development of the brain, causing difficulty with communication, learning and social interaction.
Dr. Mark Koukkari, a pediatric neurologist at Good Samaritan Hospital, said early diagnosis is key to successful treatment. He agreed with the assessment that news of the diagnosis has a tremendous impact on a family.
"It's something I can't even imagine, and something I think about every day on my way to work," he said.
During her speech at the press conference, King spent most of her time thanking the Silicon Valley community for all of its efforts and acknowledged it by its nickname, "The Valley of Heart's Delight."
King admitted later that she and Durnell were still uncertain whether the grant would come to them, even when the list was narrowed down to four.
"We kind of convinced ourselves that we weren't going to get it, and then when we did we were so exited and blown away," King said.
"It takes a lot of determination, and not one of those groups could have put it together on its own. It took Cadence to put the money into it, Good Sam to give the space and a lot of support from the people in the audience."
King was among the list of speakers at the press conference that read like a "Who's Who" list of the Bay Area: San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Olympic soccer gold medalist and foundation board member Brandi Chastain, and Jed York, vice president of strategic planning and owner of the San Francisco 49ers.
Los Gatos Mayor Barbara Spector and Vice Mayor Mike Wasserman were also on hand.
Wasserman said Good Samaritan Hospital's donation of space for the center was just as significant as the monetary donation from Cadence. Because the space and services are already provided, the center will be able to open sooner rather than later.
Terry Ruteledge, vice president of business development at Good Samaritan, said the hospital is donating 5,000 square feet of space for at least five years. The hospital will provide the space and utilities, but May Institute and the foundation will be responsible for the other costs of running the center.
Stars and Strikes is set for May 17. The fundraiser has brought in more than $10 million since it began in 1990. Last year's beneficiary, Women's Initiative, received more than $1 million from the event.
King said the autism center called for just under $1 million in its proposal, and she's confident the event will exceed that mark.
As for strapping her bowling shoes on, King said she would prefer to cheer on the sidelines.
"I was awarded the most improved player in high school, with a score increase of 70 points," she said. "But that was from 0 to 70."For more information on these companies and organizations, visit www.cadence.com, www.mayinstitute.org, www.svch.org, and www.goodsamsanjose.com.