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Autism RWMB Receives Autism Ambassador Grant

By Kirsti Mardell

There are not enough words describe how much it means to me, and to my community, to receive The Autism Ambassador Grant.I was born and raised in Fort McMurray. My son was diagnosed with autism at two years old in 2012. We joined the only Autism Support Group we knew of in our area, and until recently things remained pretty much the same in our local autism community.

That all changed last year when our community faced an evacuation. Our families were able to experience supports and services available in other areas, and it was an eye-opener. After the evacuation our group got smaller, and since then we have been trying to bring our autism community back together.

Receiving the ambassador grant means we have been able to connect with families in our region we never knew before. We have been able to provide parent-to-parent support. We have been there for families in crisis. When they had nowhere else to turn, they called us.

Before this grant we were just a bunch of parents who would randomly meet to talk at a friend’s house.  Now, with this grant, we are able to reach out and connect people throughout our whole region. We are bridging the gap so people don’t have to feel so isolated and alone.

I said it before: words cannot describe how much this Autism Speaks Canada Grant means to our community. Thank you.

Kirsti Mardell
Autism Ambassador of the RMWB
To learn more about the Family Services department at Autism Speaks Canada, please visit:
The administrators of this website hereby acknowledge the Family Services Community Grant received from Autism Speaks Canada, the funding agency for the project leading to this publication.  The views expressed on this site do not necessarily express or reflect the views of Autism Speaks Canada.

It has been a very busy month for the Autism Society of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and we have had great success with all our events since our last update.

We had a great turnout to our movie night! A lot of parents thanked us and asked that we try to put on more of these events, and we are now looking hosting an adult/teen movie night in the new year.

We have also been getting amazing feedback on our visit from Dr. Anthony Bailey, Dr. David Nicolas, Dr. Deborah Barrett and Nancy Gale. Our community is grateful to them for taking the time to come all the way up here to give us some wonderful information and advice.

Our fundraising efforts have been going well, but raising funds is challenging in a community that is still recovering from the events of the summer. A lot of our businesses are still struggling, but we were amazed that we managed to sell twice as many poinsettias as our initial target!

Our Christmas party was a hit, too! We had almost double the kids from last year – almost 70 children had a wonderful time visiting with Santa and enjoying the bouncy castles. They all loved their gifts from Santa, too! Even the parents told us what a great time they had, and that they’re already looking forward to next year’s celebration.

We are all excited for the New Year and all the great things we have planned for 2017. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Autism Society of the R.M.W.B.!


Autism Society of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Fort McMurray Autism Non-Profit Opens with Hopes for Future Centre

‘It made me want to do more in Fort McMurray, but because we were so well set up, it was hard to come back’
By Travis McEwan, CBC News

Kirsti Mardell, and her 6-year-old son, Quentin who has a non-verbal form of autism.

Kirsti Mardell, and her 6-year-old son, Quentin who has a non-verbal form of autism.

Kristi Mardell got the keys this week for an office where Fort McMurray’s autism society will soon set up shop, good news that came five months after she and other members fled the wildfire with their children.

Many society members went to Red Deer or Edmonton in the days after the wildfire. The forced evacuation was especially stressful for autistic children, who need specific help and programs most children don’t require.

A handful of society members haven’t returned since the city reopened in June, because the supports and classes for their children were better than those provided in Fort McMurray.

“We evacuated to Red Deer and we were well setup there, and the services we got kicked in right away,” said Mardell, president of autism society in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. “Our kids had support in school right way. It was amazing how fast and supportive the other communities were compared to Fort McMurray.

“It made me want to do more in Fort McMurray. But because we were so well set up, it was hard to come back.”

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Local Autism Societies

Fort McMurray Autism Support Group

fort_mcmurrayThe Fort McMurray Autism Support Group is comprised of parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disorders. This group aspires toward several goals. We work to provide a place for parents to come together and find support, both emotionally and by providing information. We desire to provide activities for our children that suit their needs and enable them to participate in the community. Finally, we endeavor to increase awareness of ASD in Fort McMurray. This group is open to all families impacted by ASD and other developmental disorders of all ages and abilities.
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