Stephen called us out of the blue in the spring of 2015 to ask if he could come work as an intern for the McCarton Foundation over the summer. Though we typically have a more formal selection process for interns, we were so impressed by his knowledge of our organization and compelled by his genuine passion for our cause, that we immediately accepted his request. We believe passion is a valuable currency, and Stephen is certainly rich in passion.
We quickly discovered that Stephen not only has a big heart, but a keen business acumen as well. Like many nonprofit organizations, we operate with a skeleton crew. We count on our summer interns to provide substantial support and assume important responsibilities. Stephen exceeded all our expectations when he arrived on the first day with a polished presentation about new fundraising initiatives in tow. He then proceeded to research the logistics, negotiate with officials at his school, Collegiate School, and launch a successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaign that fall. He is a big thinker with big ideas, and he channeled that drive and creativity to help transform the lives of children with autism.
We are especially impressed by his ability to mobilize so many young people in support of our cause. He possesses that very special combination of an intense passion to pursue his visions, and an ability to inspire others to join him in his pursuit.
Since interning at the McCarton Foundation, Stephen has continued to be involved, launching our Junior Board, as well as an autism awareness & buddy program that pairs young people with autism from our schools and centers with typically-developing peers from the Collegiate School. This year he is working to expand the program to include typically developing students from seven other schools as well. In addition, he has planned two major fundraising events that will benefit our program and bring together students from many of our city’s most excellent schools.
When Amaan Chawla first called us in 2014, he was 16 years old. He had heard about Dr. McCarton and her success helping children with autism, and he was interested in interning with the McCarton Foundation over the summer. He told us he wanted to help and to learn.
During his internship with us, Amaan successfully did both. He worked tirelessly for us at the foundation, and on his breaks he would observe. He watched our teachers and therapists, asked questions about our methodology, and was moved by what he saw.
When he returned to India, he was a man on a mission. He launched a buddy program at his school that is now being introduced to schools throughout India, pairing children with autism with typically-developing peers for weekly social sessions. He spearheaded a campaign gathering signatures for a plea appealing the Indian government to recognize autism as a disability. And he continues to lead new projects and initiatives dedicated to increasing awareness and shifting public perception about autism in India.
Amaan is an inspiration to us, and on November 18th, we were pleased to present him with our 2015 Inspiration Award. As the McCarton Foundation focuses on launching our new center in the Bronx to help children with autism in New York’s most underserved community, it seemed fitting for us to honor Amaan, who is transforming the lives of children with autism in underserved communities on the other side of the world.
Stephen Wiltshire is an artist who draws and paints detailed cityscapes. He has a particular talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representations of cities, sometimes after having only observed them briefly. He studied Fine Art at City & Guilds Art College. His work is popular all over the world, and is held in a number of important collections. Stephen was born in London to West Indian parents on 24th April, 1974. As a child he was mute, and did not relate to other people. Aged three, he was diagnosed as autistic. He had no language and lived entirely in his own world.
At the age of five, Stephen was sent to Queensmill School in London, where it was noticed that the only pastime he enjoyed was drawing. It soon became apparent he communicated with the world through the language of drawing; first animals, then London buses, and finally buildings. These drawings show a masterful perspective, a whimsical line, and reveal a natural innate artistry.
He sold his first work and by the time he turned 8, he received his first commission from late Prime Minister Edward Heath to create a drawing of Salisbury Cathedral. At about age 10 Stephen embarked on an ambitious project called “London Alphabet,” a group of pictures depicting landmark structures in London, listed in alphabetical sequence – from Albert Hall, a famed performance venue, to the London Zoo.
Stephen has been creating incredible art ever since. His accomplishments stand as an inspiration to the many gifted artists who have been diagnosed with autism. We are honored to have him as an Inspiration Award recipient.