Hawks Hosting “Autism Awareness Night” on April 4; High School Senior to Shoot for $10,000 on Behalf of “Autism Speaks”

Published 10:57 am Friday, April 3, 2015

ATLANTA —– The Atlanta Hawks will recognize “World Autism Awareness Day” on Saturday, April 4 when they host the Brooklyn Nets at Philips Arena. Highlights of the day include: a halfcourt shot attempt to be taken by the manager of a local high school boys basketball team to benefit Autism Speaks, in-game recognition of the coach from a sports league focusing on children with special needs, and designated suites and quiet viewing rooms for autistic youth groups.

“We are very proud to join teams around the NBA to participate in the eighth annual ‘World Autism Awareness Day,’” said David Lee, Hawks SVP of External Affairs and Executive Director of the Atlanta Hawks Foundation. “This initiative presents a great opportunity to engage the Atlanta community and rally behind a deserving cause.”

Nick Bennett, a senior at North Hall High School in Gainesville, GA, has served as the student manager of the boys’ basketball team for four years. Bennett, who has autism, gained national attention after converting over 1,000 halfcourt shots during his tenure with the team. At halftime of the contest on April 4, Bennett will attempt a midcourt shot to net $10,000 for Autism Speaks. The Atlanta Hawks Foundation has pledged to make a minimum donation of $5,000, regardless of the outcome of Bennett’s shot.

Scott Gross, sports camp coach with the Wonder League, will be honored with the “Be Greater” award for his dedication to teaching special needs youth through sports. Sensations TheraFun, a sensory-based, indoor playground for children with special needs, operates the Wonder League and hosted a basketball clinic for children on the autism spectrum during NBA FIT Live Healthy Week in January. Hawks center Elton Brand, an advocate for autism awareness, attended the basketball clinic and will participate in a meet and greet with guests from Autism Speaks and Kulture City following Saturday’s game.

Autism is a general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 U.S. children falls on the autism spectrum, impacting each child’s entire family.