June 11, 2004

Vanderbilt autism camp benefits from Clay Aiken’s foundation

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Clay Aiken

Vanderbilt autism camp benefits from Clay Aiken’s foundation

American Idol star Clay Aiken chose the TRIAD autism summer camp program at the Center for Child Development at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital as one of the first beneficiaries of a new fund.

Aiken formed the foundation with a long time friend to help children with disabilities.

The Bubel/Aiken Foundation (TBAF) presented a $20,000 grant to the TRIAD camp to help more children with autism attend the summer camp.

TRIAD camp director Misty Ballew, an American Idol fan, had been waiting for the fund to appear.

“During that season of American Idol, they brought up Mr. Aiken’s love of children and his interest in autism and other childhood disorders,” Ballew said. “I had been looking for it because it’s so rare to find national funds to help programs that serve children with autism.”

Ballew says they took a chance and increased enrollment at TRIAD, hoping the grant would come through and were thrilled when it did.

“We’ve already given $10,000 in scholarships this year,” Ballew said. “Money given through Vanderbilt helps quite a bit as well, but this grant from TBAF is wonderful.”

Last July, Aiken founded The Bubel/Aiken Foundation (TBAF) with Diane Bubel, who he has worked with since he was a college student.

Bubel’s son, Mike, has autism and when Aiken was in college studying special education, Bubel hired him to help with her son. Aiken worked part time with the family to help Mike improve his community and home skills. Aiken became close to the family and after he reached star status, he and Bubel began TBAF to “foster the inclusion of children with developmental disabilities into all life has to offer.”

Last month, the foundation announced the winners of its first two grants. The recipients had applied for their grants through an application available on the TBAF website. The Renaissance Learning Center (RLC) of Palm Beach County, Fla. received the second grant for $15,000.

The Vanderbilt TRIAD Autism Summer Camp is a social skills camp for children with autism spectrum disorders and their typically-developing peers. The day camp encourages inclusion by having children of all abilities participate together in daily camp activities.

Additional information on the grant process can be found under the “grant” header on the Web site at http://www.thebubelaikenfoundation.org.