Jenny McCarthy promotes options for autism treatment
BY ALISA M. ALEXANDER May 13, 2012 9:58PM
Jenny McCarthy learned about Generation Rescue while researching treatments for her son’s autism, and now she’s the group’s president.
RESCUE/AUTISM ONE CONFERENCE
◆ May 23-27
◆ Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, 70 Yorktown Center, Lombard
◆ Admission free; processing and materials $25
ANGELS COCKTAIL PARTY & SILENT AUCTION
◆ 6:30 to 10 p.m. May 24
◆ Rockit Bar & Grill,
22 W. Hubbard
◆ $75 ($125 VIP)
Updated: June 15, 2012 10:51AM
On Memorial Day weekend, Jenny McCarthy will bring a little bit of L.A. glamor to her hometown, Chicago, for a cause that is close to her heart. The TV star’s philanthropic organization, Generation Rescue, and Autism One have paired up to offer a conference for parents to learn about new support and treatment methods for their children with autism.
McCarthy’s personal experience with her son’s autism diagnosis and treatment led her to become deeply involved in Generation Rescue, where she is the president. McCarthy will be a keynote speaker at the conference, which, for the second year in a row, is free for the entire weekend to ensure that families of all income levels can attend and learn more about treatment for their children with autism.
McCarthy will kick off the weekend with a hip cocktail fund-raiser called Rescue Our Angels at Rockit Bar and Grill. Guests will enjoy cocktails, passed dinner and dessert and a fabulous auction. Partygoers also will get the chance to meet McCarthy and get some fun photo ops. Cause & Event caught up with Jenny McCarthy to talk about this special weekend of events.
Q. I know that you have a connection with Generation Rescue through your journey as a mother to your son, Evan, who was diagnosed with autism. Tell me how you got involved with Generation Rescue and Autism One.
A. The day Evan was diagnosed with autism, the doctor told me there wasn’t much I could do. Thank God, I had enough faith to take matters into my own hands. I Googled the word “autism,” which brought me to Generation Rescue. This website, at that time, was just a website of information that was run by parents and by doctors that were treating kids with autism … and it said that the kids could get better. At first I thought that it can’t be real, because why would my doctor lie? So I kept reading. It kept providing interesting concepts such as changing your kids’ diet and detoxifying their environment. It made sense to me, so I said, “Why not give it a try?” Evan showed drastic improvements, so when he got better, I made it my mission to take over Generation Rescue and make it a successful organization that raises funds so that low-income families that have children with autism can get help.
Q. Were you surprised by the cost of treatment and the number of families that couldn’t afford to treat their children with autism?
A. I mean, me, here I am in show business, and I was taking a hit because insurance doesn’t cover most of the treatments. A lot of it was out of pocket, so I had to take a second mortgage on my house. I thought to myself, “If I am having to do this, I can’t imagine how others can manage the cost of treatment.” So how were they doing it? When I started looking into it, I realized that so many families were doing nothing … they couldn’t. So the biggest thing I wanted to implement was to take these low-income families and do a grant program, so the ones who want to do something are now able to help their children. We have an enormous success rate, because we have been monitoring and tracking data as the grant program moves along. Eighty percent of the children we have funded have improved significantly.
Q. I hear you have a desk in the Generation Rescue office and have regular hours. What is your week like?
A. It’s nice, because when I took over Generation Rescue, I moved the organization to L.A., right across the street from my house. This way I am close to it. At one point, my house was a school for autistic children. I opened up my doors to about 30 kids and their families at the time. I was turning into Mary Poppins because I had to do something for these kids who have nowhere to go. So my house was the school for two years. Generation Rescue is still across the street but the school did move.
Q. Why is it important that the Generation Rescue Conference be affordable?
A. I know how expensive autism is … and then the travel expenses to go to a conference … and then to pay $200 to get a pass for the week … I can’t even imagine it! Now, parents can come with their children at a minimal cost. We even have babysitting services at the conference. We are also entertaining the fathers with speakers that will keep them interested.
Q. Why did you choose to have it in Chicago?
A. Autism One has been around before I even came around. And when I toured all of the conventions and conferences, this one not only had the A-team of doctors, but it also had the A-team of parents that I refer to as “warrior parents.” They don’t just put the Band-Aid on, they want to heal the wound. So they are all there to get options beside the Band-aid. Chicago has that mentality, so it stuck.
Q. Tell me about the Rescue Our Angels cocktail event. The event sounds like it is going to be fun!
A. Absolutely! It is this great group of Chicagoans. It’s this wide range of people who are there to have a great time and raise money. You know, it’s not a boring filet mignon dinner, it’s literally “let’s have some cocktails and party and take some pictures!”
Q. What do you and Evan enjoy doing together when you are here?
A. For this trip, we will be staying with my best friend in the suburbs for a couple weeks because she has about 10 kids in the neighborhood that are about 9 years old, that do what I did when I was that age, like playing with fire hydrants and chasing each other through the backyard. You know, I don’t have that in L.A., I don’t even know my neighbors’ names. So, when we go back home to Chicago, I try to give Evan that Midwest upbringing for the short time we are there. I want him to make connections with people and show him that people are more fun than video games.
Q. What’s the most important thing for Chicagoans to know about this special Generation Rescue/ Autism One weekend?
A. I really want to call out to parents — if they are looking for help in treating their kids, it is at their doorstep.
The Sun-Times is a media sponsor of the event.