If you’ve recently walked through the quad after dark, you may have noticed a few buildings brightly illuminated in blue light. It wasn’t meant to shine purple in honor of Albion’s colors or look like a prank—the lights represent a much greater cause. During the month of April, over 7,000 buildings, landmarks and college campuses across the globe are lighting up blue to celebrate National Autism Awareness Month.
According to the Autism Society, as of March 2012, prevalence of autism has risen to one in every 88 children and almost to one in every 54 boys born in America.
In their annual philanthropy, Alpha Xi Delta partners with Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, to promote autism awareness, fund research and support families and individuals affected by autism. This year, the Xi girls decided to take awareness to another level.
“This month, the Phi chapter reached out to Bill McCoy in Facilities to participate in a national event known as ‘Light it Up Blue’,” said Bekah Snyder, Albion junior. “Usually, the only thing we’re able to do is light our lodge up with blue light bulbs. However, thanks to the help of Facilities, the Kellogg Center and Stockwell were both lit up, as well as a few walls with additional light bulbs.”
In an effort to get the campus involved, Bill McCoy, director of maintenance and energy management, worked diligently to shed light on this national event—literally.
“We ordered some high-intensity blue fluorescent bulbs and installed them in the pole lights at the front of Stockwell Library, as well as changed out the ground lights that light up the Quad-side of the KC,” McCoy said. “We also installed blue lenses on the ground lights at Stockwell Library in conjunction with the blue fluorescent pole lights.”
McCoy’s efforts went beyond his job description or simply supporting a campus organization’s philanthropy. He believes that these small steps made on campus contribute to a much larger impact around the world.
“Autism affects one in 50 people, and that’s one too many,” McCoy said. “I believe that awareness leads to funding, funding leads to research and research leads to cures.”
On April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, Alpha Xi Delta also painted the rock with the characteristic yellow puzzle piece on a blue background which represents the mystery and complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Members painted the rock as a reminder to students passing by of the existence of this common, life-changing disability.
“Autism Awareness Month is a way to educate others about Autism and remind them how many people this disorder affects today,” Snyder said.
For the fourth year in a row, the Empire State Building in New York City radiated in blue light and served as a “beacon of hope.” Even the Sydney Opera House and the Great Pyramids in Egypt were also lit in honor of this sixth annual worldwide event. Now Albion College will set aside its purple and gold for a month to support the powerful movement to promote autism awareness.
“We in facilities operations believe in and support our students in many ways on a daily basis as part of our ‘One Campus Community’ belief,” McCoy said. “It is important to stand behind what we believe in.”