Community Voices

Crystal Academy to raise autism awareness with event at Coral Gables Museum

World Autism Awareness Day is Monday and the global community is counting the days.

Here in our community, you can learn about the journey of autism at Crystal Academy’s “I am 1 of You” Autism Awareness Campaign event hosted by the Coral Gables Museum Monday through April 9 at 285 Aragon Ave.

The museum’s Community Meeting Room will be dedicated to art exhibits made by Crystal Academy students, as well as their interactive educational expo aimed at raising awareness that people with autism be included in our everyday worlds. It is free and open to the public.

“It is an honor and a privilege for the Coral Gables Museum to be able to sponsor Crystal Academy with such a unique exhibition,” said John Allen, executive director at the Coral Gables Museum, in a release.

Crystal Academy student David Pike Jr., 15, started early on his art for the “I am 1 of You” gallery and interactive educational expo April 2-9 at the Coral Gables Museum. At the event, Crystal Academy is seeking to expand awareness and the message of inclusion for students with autism.

“Our commitment to the community goes beyond the traditional arts and reflects the presence of this special segment of our society. Crystal Academy has been tailoring special programs for autism with trends in creativity getting magnificent results,” he said.

It’s been four years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the prevalence of autism in the United States. This study identified one in 68 children — one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls — as having autism spectrum disorder.

The exhibit will be open during the regular Coral Gables Gallery Night on Friday. The main purpose is to guide visitors through the journey of autism.

“For many of the Crystal Academy students featured in the exhibition, creative expression represents something more than an outlet for an active imagination. Art can provide a source of decompression and a means of communication,” said Mary Palacio-Pike, Crystal Academy founder and president, who is also a mother of David, a 15-year-old with ASD.

She said the Coral Gables Museum and Crystal Academy invite the general public and families with children on the autism spectrum to “join them for this sensory-friendly experience. It will be an encounter designed to better understand the journey of ASD life.”

It will also exhibit the strong bond and love of family members who have siblings, sons or daughters with autism. Look for the moving poem “Field of Complexities” written by a seventh-grade student who has a brother with ASD.

For museum hours, visit

To further support the mission, “The Heart of Gold” fashion show featuring students, parents and therapists of Crystal Academy on the runway, will start at 6 p.m., April 14 at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club, 1001 Ponce de Leon Blvd. Tickets are $45 and $55 for front row seating.

“It was overwhelming and devastating to be told all the things that my child would never be able to do as a typical child,” said Sarah Riggs, The Heart of Gold event creator and organizer in an email.

“As a Mom, I understand and live daily with the hope that has become possible with therapy,” she said. “My hope is that all our contributions make it possible for every child on the autism spectrum to maximize their potential.”

Everyone is invited to attend this uplifting event. Buy tickets, donate or join as a sponsor at or contact Riggs at 305-606-8430 or, or Carmen Moffett at 786-897-9171 or

“This kind of event represents to our children the opportunity to participate in a real social environment, where an expected protocol needs to be followed, allowing them the experience to further develop their sense of confidence,” said Crystal Academy’s Palacio-Pike.

Battle of the Legal Bands

Prepare yourself for a rockin’ time at the upcoming sixth annual Battle of the Legal Bands, 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at Sidebar Miami, 337 SW Eighth St.

This fun event features prominent South Florida lawyers and a judge showcasing their musical talents. Proceeds enable Dade Legal Aid to continue its mission of providing free legal services to qualifying low-income residents of Miami-Dade County.

This year’s bands include The 540's, Crazy Talk, Feedback, The Urge and Chillable Hours. Bands manager is Steve Paulson.

The Band Together for Legal Aid event includes many of South Florida’s young professionals who are “committed to ensuring that lack of financial resources is not a barrier to equal justice under the law.” Chaired by Stephanie Grosman, a Dade Legal Aid staff attorney, the event is expected to draw more than 300 supporters.

“The demand for pro bono services has never been greater,” said Karen Ladis, executive director of Dade Legal Aid in an email.

“Thanks to the combined efforts of sponsors, supporters, the participating bands, and voluntary bar associations we can continue to fulfill our mission of protecting children in crisis, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, families facing evictions and bankruptcy and other vulnerable populations,” she said.

You can purchase advance tickets for $20. Tickets are $25 at the door. Student tickets are $10. Tickets for judges are complimentary. Learn about the good done by Dade Legal Aid Staff Attorneys and the pro bono volunteers with Put Something Back at

Lion’s Club garage sale

The Miami Buena Vista-Biltmore Lions Club is committed to helping many in our community. Members provide back-to-school supplies to children, offer eye-screening tests, give toys during the holidays to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, provide diabetes blood tests, and sponsor a needy family during the holidays.

The service club will hold its annual garage sale 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at the corner of Southwest 122nd Avenue and 31st Street. All proceeds will go toward funding service programs.

To learn more, contact this year’s project manager, Tony Montes, at or club president Paola Celpa at

Free chamber music concert

Families are invited to bring their children to hear the music of Mozart, Vivaldi, Schubert, Reger and Mendelssohn when Daniel Andai, artistic director and conductor of Alhambra Orchestra, conducts 30 orchestra musicians in a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 8, at Coral Gables Congregational Church, 3010 De Soto Blvd.

Miami’s Alhambra Orchestra has a mission to support classical music and music education. The concert titled “Four or More” will feature varied chamber music for winds, strings, and piano. Free parking is available and neither tickets nor reservations are needed. More at or call 305-668-9260.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at