April is Autism Awareness Month: Join Us In Support

The outbreak of the coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on the world, with the fast-changing environment requiring navigation through uncertain times. We realize what is needed now more than ever is to spread love and kindness.

As we welcome April, and with it, World Autism Month, we at Frank Family Vineyards want to encourage the international community to come together to increase understanding and acceptance and to foster worldwide support for autism. Starting April 1, Frank Family Vineyards is joining this month-long movement by partnering with Autism Speaks, the largest autism advocacy organization in the nation.

The winery is donating 15% of all proceeds from our 2018 Carneros Chardonnay online sales as well as from “Frank for a Cause” packages featuring a limited-edition blue t-shirt and bottle of Chardonnay. Our donations will help fund vital programs that increase global understanding, advance breakthroughs in autism research, expand early childhood screening, and improve transition to adulthood.

We hope you enjoy a bottle of Chardonnay with your loved ones, in-person if possible, and on social media using #FrankForACause to help spread the word every time you wear our exclusive Autism Speaks t-shirt.

Jennifer and Owen Higgins

The inspiration behind our 2020 fundraising campaign is a very important staff member at Frank Family Vineyards, Jennifer Higgins. For the past 12 years, Jen has worked in Frank Family’s retail department and she graciously shares her family’s story with autism below.   

1. Can you share your family’s experience with autism?  

I want to start by saying that we were very lucky. We noticed the signs early on. When my son, Owen was one and a half he was not speaking. He could clap his hands but not wave bye-bye. It was enough for my husband, Todd and I to voice our concerns with a nurse practitioner. As a parent, you of course want them to tell you that you misread the signs and it’s all going to be okay. But we were handed a pamphlet about the “Early Start Program” and were given a list of resources to call. I needed time to digest it all. It was difficult for me to wrap my brain around the idea that Owen could have autism. Afterall, like everyone, you picture how your life will be and this never crossed my mind.  

It took me a few months to build up the courage to make the call. We brought Owen in and he received diagnosis on the autism spectrum around age two. Once the shock of it wore off, I realized just how important that early intervention was. The resources, to which there are plenty of, suddenly opened up. Owen started special education a year later where he has received personal lessons and support ever since. Now, Owen is in high school where his lessons are aimed at transiting into an adult. He’s learning how to do laundry, how to cook, and is exploring employment paths.  

We’re learning that every parent stresses and worries about their kids. For us, our concerns are just different. It’s been a long journey, but we’ve accepted it. Six or eight years ago, this would have been difficult for me to talk about. But it’s our life, and it’s not something to be pitied. We love Owen for all that he is and want to see a world where people with autism can discover their true potential.  

2. Owen is an amazing kid and we loved seeing him grow up. Can you tell us a little more about him?  

Owen loves entertaining others. He’s incredibly social and loves making others laugh. He’s very proud that he was voted “most likely to host a game show” at school. Owen is also great with computers, numbers, and art. Coming from a music family, where I sing in a barbershop quartet and my husband plays the trumpet, Owen can hear a chord and sing it perfectly on pitch. He never misses a note.  

3. Since it is Autism Awareness month, what do you wish people would be more aware of? 

Every person and experience with autism are different. It’s important not to generalize, assume, or underestimate anyone’s abilities. Another thing that always strikes me is the notion that autistic people lack empathy. Some people may shy away from social engagement and others want to be part of it but don’t know how. It’s true that processing and expressing emotion can be a challenge for many people with autism, but that doesn’t mean they have any less empathy than neurotypical people.  

4. What do you hope the Frank Family and Autism Speaks partnership accomplishes?  

It’s actually quite simple. I hope this campaign, along with all the work this charity does throughout the year, helps to create a kinder, more inclusive world. I love that Frank Family Vineyards is backing up this amazing cause!