Westborough girl honored for autism advocacy

By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor

Westborough High School junior Rebecca Ackerman. Photo/Bonnie Adams

Westborough – Autism affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys, according to the nonprofit research and advocacy group, Autism Speaks. Westborough resident David Ackerman, is one such boy. Although he lives in a world that is not the same as other teens, he has one powerful ally on his side – his twin sister, Rebecca. Over the past six years, this 16-year-old Westborough High School junior has devoted much of her time and energy to raising $80,000 for autism research as part of the fundraising team she has named, “Doing it for Dave.”

Recently, Rebecca was named as one of two Massachusetts students to receive the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her efforts. The awards, which are sponsored by Prudential Financial and the National Association, are given to young people each year for their outstanding acts of volunteerism in their communities. Rebecca also received a President's Service Award for her work. As such, she received a certificate signed by President Barack Obama.

In spite of all this acclaim, Rebecca remains down-to-earth about her accomplishments and instead is focusing more on the month of April, which is National Autism Month. As she did last year, she will be organizing a school-wide event, “Light it Up Blue,” Monday, April 2.

“I's asking everyone to wear blue that day, which represents autism awareness,” she explained. “I will also pass out pins for everyone to wear.”

These are not just ordinary pins, they are pins she has made by hand – over 1,500 of them.

Rebecca said it was her mother, Susan, who first told her about the annual fundraising walk held in Boston, “Autism Speaks.”

“I was ten when I did the first one. My goal was $230, but I really anticipated I would only raise $50,” she said. “Instead I made $4,500.”

Since that first walk, she has beaten her previous year's tally. Last year she raised $28,000.

Much of that money has been raised the old-fashioned way – with lots of baked goods which she has sold outside of local supermarkets, Stop & Shop and Roche Bros.

“I have definitely baked a lot of things,” she noted. “The stores have been really supportive. And my family and friends have also helped out a lot too.”

The reason, of course, behind all this hard work is her brother.

“He has never spoken to me or given me a hug,” she said. “Even when he stands right beside me, he's in a different world.”

“But he's my brother and I love him,” she added.

As one of the state honorees, Rebecca will next be attending a ceremony in Washington, D.C. where she will be eligible for the national finals of the Prudential awards.

Her parents and extended family members are “ecstatic” about her recent honors, she said.

“I am proud to get this far but I am also a little bit nervous, too,” she added. “And I's excited to meet everyone else and hear what kind of work they have done.”

As a junior, Rebecca is starting to think about her future.

“I want to study business so I can work for a nonprofit someday,” she said. “I also want to keep raising money for autism too.”

To donate to Rebecca's fundraising team and to learn more about her mission, go to http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org and type her name into the “search for walker” blocks. Rebecca has also set up a Facebook page titled, “Doing it for Dave.”

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=19994

Posted by on Mar 30 2012. Filed under Byline Stories, People and Places, Westborough. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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