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Raising autism awareness

Local group looking to help local families

July 5, 2012
By Zach Kukkonen ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HUBBELL - Autism is a tough disorder for parents and children alike to deal with, so a group of grandparents who have been touched by autism are looking to help local families.

Kathe Lanctot and Jack Dugdale, and Marion and Mike Gilles, all of whom are grandparents to an autistic child, have formed Copper Country Autism Awareness, a group to provide support for Copper Country families affected by autism.

The group, which is two years in the making, aims to aid local families as well as coordinate the resources available in the area.

Article Photos

Zach Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
From left, Kathe Lanctot, Jack Dugdale, Marion Gilles and Mike Gilles, the founders of the Copper Country Autism Awareness group, are shown at Lanctot and Dugdale’s home in Hubbell.

"We're really still in the organizational stage, but we have an event planned," Dugdale said. "We're going to do a family fun day Sept. 15."

The family fun day is planned to help parents and children have a joyful experience where they don't have to worry as much about autism, and will likely be held at one of the Houghton schools.

"It's hard for these kids and their parents to get out and do the kinds of things children normally do, knowing the experience we have with our grandchild," Mike Gilles said.

As the event draws nearer, CCAA is also looking for volunteers.

"We would love to have high school kids come in and help with fun day," Lanctot said.

Following the family fun day, the group is also planning a Parents Day, which would involve a panel that can provide local families with information.

"This panel we'd like to put together, it would probably be all local people that are available, whether it be nutritionists or day care workers," Lanctot said. "We'd also like parents that maybe have an older autistic child that have been through the stages that parents with younger children have yet to deal with."

The CCAA meets frequently, and its next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. July 18 in Portage Health's conference rooms one and two. The meeting is open to anyone interested in helping out local families with autism, especially younger people.

"We feel like this is really affecting this younger generation, so it's our kids and grandkids this is affecting," Marion Gilles said. "They should be the ones that should really get involved with this, because it's their lives."

The group is also trying to get more parents involved.

"We need parents of autistic children because they know what their needs are," Lanctot said. "We really want to get involved with the parents so we can help and know what they need and what they want.

"We feel like we have the time to make a lot of the phone calls and try to organize things they may need or want."

An endowment has been started by the four with the Keweenaw Community Foundation to help fund the cause.

"We put together a small endowment to get things started," Dugdale said. "Now we're looking for additional support to support things like our fun day."

To contact the KCF to donate, visit

With autism affecting approximately one in 88 children, according to the National Autism Association, the group's primary aim is to simply inform the public and help coordinate local autism efforts.

"Our main goal is to put together resource material to further educate parents," Dugdale said. "We'd like to have a website where they can find all this information, and we're going to print up a brochure that will have all the information and resources available."

For more information about Copper Country Autism Awareness, visit the group's Facebook page or email



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