Gala at Elkin Place to support autism center

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Autism Center of North Mississippi will celebrate its fifth annual gala Friday in Tupelo.

The gala, which will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. at Elkin Place in Tupelo, is one of the major fundraisers for the center which provides services, assessments and training on a sliding scale for children on the autism spectrum, their families and teachers.

“Our goal (is) to see them gain skills they’re missing, to see them interact with friends and family and communicating more fully,” said Matthew Davison, clinical director.

Since the Tupelo center began in 2009, it’s helped hundreds of children.

Currently, the center has 20 children receiving services at its West Tupelo facility with a waiting list of 59, said Brittany Cuevas, director of business development.

The center’s leaders hope to add an additional behavioral specialist to expand the number of children they can help, but they need to increase funding to afford the position.

“It would allow us to serve more children,” Cuevas said.

The silent auction will feature furniture, restaurant gift certificates, University of Mississippi items autographed by Dexter McCluster and Hugh Freeze and more.

The band Faze 3 will provide the music. Tickets are $20 and available at the autismcenternms.org website or at the door.

New leaders

Davison and Cuevas have stepped into leadership roles with the center since founding director Sharon Boudreaux took a new position in Georgia. She continues to serve as a partner for the center.

Davison, who has served as a behavioral specialist at the center for a year and a half, is now the clinical director. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Mississippi and a master’s degree in behavior analysis from the University of North Texas.

“To see a child succeed, where in many cases they aren’t succeeding anywhere else, is inspiring,” Davison said.

Cuevas is a Newton native and is an accountant by training. She also worked with a development state health insurance company as senior accountant.

“I’ve always wanted to use my accounting and business skills to serve as an advocate,” Cuevas said.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com

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Autism Center Gala

When: 7 to 11 p.m. Friday

Where: Elkin Place, downtown Tupelo

What: Live music, heavy hors d’ouerves, silent auction

Tickets: $20 per person; available at www.autismcenternms.com/gala or at the door