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Jeff And Rachel Ireland Highlight 5th Autumn Moonlight Event

Posted Nov 14, 2012

Dolphins GM and wife spearhead fundraiser for autism.

Last Friday evening the showroom at Specialty Automotive Treatments in Fort Lauderdale was again transformed into a gala of hope and love for the 5th Annual Autumn Moonlight, benefiting the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland and his wife Rachel served as honorary chairs of the event, one year after being designated as honorees. Four hours of food, drinks, music, dancing and most importantly, fundraising, ensued and aided in raising even more awareness for the cause so close to the Ireland’s hearts.

“More than anything else and more than the money that you raise it’s the awareness that you spread,” said Jeff Ireland, whose twin daughters, Haley and Hannah, are highly functioning autistic children. “That’s what I think is the great thing about community. You build friendships, you build relationships and the awareness grows and that’s what’s most important in the long run.”

Through both the silent auction and the live auction, Autumn Moonlight was able to raise thousands of dollars for more research and treatments for autism and the other related disabilities. The funds raised also help provide critical services to the families in need and help educate them to make the best decisions for their child or children.

Rachel Ireland remembers what it was like when the Ireland family first moved to South Florida from Texas and had no idea where to go or who to reach out to in regards to their daughters. They immediately hooked up with Dolphins Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino and his wife, Claire, who saw their own autistic child, Michael, make it through to the point where now he is a successful disc jockey.

“As parents we all want our children to be active and contributing members of society and they are very capable of so many things,” Rachel Ireland said. “My twins have so many gifts and some company would be very blessed to have them working for them someday, so as long as we continue to get the awareness out we can make companies aware of the gifts these children have.

“It’s unbelievable what we can do because when you think about one in 80 boys and one in 100 children are affected by autism, it’s definitely an epidemic. If we don’t do something to empower these families, to empower these children and to let people know of these gifts and strengths that they have then you’re going to have all these aging autistic kids not doing anything. You’ve got to be aware of their talents and their strengths and employ them and have them contributing.”

Local 10s sports director Will Manso served as the emcee for the evening and the auctioneer during the live auction and Dolphins punter Brandon Fields was among those showing support from the organization. Tight ends coach Dan Campbell and CEO Mike Dee also were among those on hand.

“I just wanted to come out here and show my support for Jeff and all the other parents who have autistic kids,” Fields said. “It’s very hard for the kids to deal with and hard for the parents, so I wanted to do what I could to help raise awareness and help raise funds for treatments.”

It was easy to see just how passionate the Irelands are about Autumn Moonlight and raising awareness by the powerful words spoken by Jeff Ireland when he took the microphone from Manso before the live auction. He pleaded with those on hand to reach into their pockets and look into their hearts while bidding on the number of appealing items, reminding everyone how far away CARD still is from being able to help such a large population.

“It’s early intervention with your children once they’re diagnosed and with CARD the message is contact them,” Jeff Ireland said. “If your child is diagnosed with autism or on the spectrum, call them and they will direct you to the right services that your child needs. That’s what’s important because my wife and I spent so much money and so much precious time on services that never worked for our children. Once we got here and we got the right direction, that’s when things started happening with our girls, and that’s invaluable for parents.”

For information about CARD and Autumn Moonlight visit the website at www.cardautumnmoonlight.org.
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