KINGSTON - With sisters Hollie Cataldi and Theresa Breen both giving birth to sons in recent months, the statistic that autism affects one in 70 boys - and one in 110 children overall - especially hit home.
Despite the rain last Thursday night, the Summer Solstice party at Solstice restaurant in Kingston was a time for restaurant owners John and Hollie Cataldi, her sister (and event coordinator), their family and friends to shine a light on efforts to support research into autism.
Even before the party started, the night was declared a success, with $20,000 in hand to assist the local chapter of Autism Speaks, an organization founded in 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism, with efforts to shine a light on the brain disorder.
As of the middle of this week, that amount had climbed to more than $27,000, an all time high, Breen said, thanks to the generosity of their patrons. In its eighth year, the party has raised more than $100,000 for charitable causes.
"Every year we look for some group that has a local feel to it," John Cataldi said, adding that having an exployee whose son is autistic and a sister-in-law who works with autistic children led to the decision to support Autism Speaks this year.
Cataldi said he's happy each year to have the support of Solstice customers, restaurant vendors and local business owners and others for their efforts.
"We've been so fortunate from the very beginning to have such generous customers from Kingston and surrounding towns," he said. "Even with this economy, we have so much support. It's our way of giving back and showing our appreciation for everybody."
The overwhelming support for the Summer Solstice event with so many people turning out even in the rain and the amount of money raised impressed Autism Speaks Walk and Event Director Kelley Borer-Miller of the Greater Boston Chapter.
"When we walked into the event it was already successful," she said. "It shows how tight this community is."
When the Cataldis opened Solstice eight years ago, they wanted to start a tradition of throwing parties that counted. John said they get personal satisfaction from throwing parties for charity.
"It's just another party if it's not for something," he said.
Since year two, the band Despite Dwight has performed at the Summer Solstice party. Local businesses at the party included Island Creek Oysters, Mayflower Brewing Company and Dogfish Brewery. Various restaurant vendors also contributed to the cause.
Breen, an occupational therapist intimiately familiar with how autism affects children and families, said they are proud to support the Greater Boston Chapter of Autism Speaks for all the good work they do.
"The money will stay in the Boston area, which is nice," she said.
Autism Speaks has committed more than $98 million in grants to support 773 research projects and fellowships into the causes and treatments of autism. The investment in research grants has been leveraged into nearly $153 million in National Institutes of Health and other funding. Boston hospitals, universities and cancer centers have been part of this effort.
Borer-Smith said that when Breen reached out to the Greater Boston chapter, it was a most welcome surprise because they work to get the word out to families that they can reach out to Autism Speaks to ask for support.
"It really fell into our lap," she said. "It's pretty amazing. We're about raising awareness and getting people to think about autism."