The State of Qatar Continues to be an International Autism Advocate

On Wednesday, November 8, the Embassy of the State of Qatar held the inaugural Autism Awareness Gala to benefit Autism Speaks. The Gala was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and this year’s gala theme was “Together for Autism: Ensuring Acceptance and Accessibility.”  


The State of Qatar, along with Autism Speaks, has and continues to be committed to raising awareness for this disorder and ensuring individuals and families have access to resources and services they need to live productive lives.


Hosted by Emmy Award winning news Anchor Autria Godfrey of “Good Morning Washington” and “ABC7 News at Noon,” the gala featured performances by Ethan Walmark and Rachel Platten.


Ethan, 12, is the youngest recipient of the McCarron Foundation’s “Genius of Autism” Award; a video of him playing “Piano Man” went viral on YouTube as he became the living embodiment of the power of music. His video amassed over 1.8 million views. Ethan taught himself how to play piano by ear at 15 months. He has performed The National Anthem for Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, and was named Autism Speaks’ 2012-2013 “Volunteer of the Year.”


Rachel Platten is an award-winning singer and songwriter, who won a Daytime Emmy for a live performance on Good Morning America of her best-known hit “Fight Song.” Her 2016 hit album Wildfire is certified gold.


Congressman Mike Doyle (PA-14) and Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) were honored at the event.  Since 2001, Reps. Doyle and Smith have co-chaired the bipartisan Congressional Autism Caucus, and were recognized for their work in establishing the first congressional membership organization on Capitol Hill dedicated to autism advocacy.


Dr. Vikram Patel, a professor of global health at Harvard Medical School and one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015, was also honored for his work on child and adolescent health.  Dr. Patel’s NGO, Sangath, won the MacArthur Foundation’s International Prize for Creative and Effective Institutions.


Michelle Carbonelle was also honored for her outstanding philanthropic dedication and work for autism. Since her son’s diagnosis with autism, Michelle has dedicated herself to this cause, attending conferences across the country and helping to raise awareness for ASD.  She chaired the board of Autism Speaks from 2012 to 2016, and as co-founder of the Nelson and Michelle Carbonelle Family Foundation, has helped raise over $6 million to support Autism education and research.


The keynote address was given by HE Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Ambassador of the State of Qatar to the United States. Ambassador Al-Thani has represented the State of Qatar in Washington, D.C. since December 2016. He previously served as Qatar’s Ambassador to France and the United Nations.


“One in every 68 children in the United States have autism and as that number continues to rise, we must work together to ensure families have the knowledge, services and resources necessary to provide for their loved ones. The State of Qatar is committed to working with Autism Speaks and families across America and around the world to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with autism and to fund vital research and interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions,” HE Ambassador Al-Thani stated.


The State of Qatar has a history of commitment to autism research and awareness campaigns. Qatar’s Shafallah Center, founded in Doha in 1999, provides cutting edge medical care and research for people on the autism spectrum and hosts an annual forum to discuss the issue of autism in the developing world. And just last year, Qatar opened Renad Academy, a new center for students with autism that will provide education and specialized services for them and their families.


Further, in 2007 Qatar sponsored the UN resolution declaring April 2 as World Awareness Day, a resolution that was supported by all member states.


“We are grateful to The State of Qatar for its leadership and longtime commitment to the global autism community,” said Autism Speaks president and CEO Angela Geiger. “Thank you to Ambassador Al-Thani and the Embassy here in Washington for all they are doing to enhance the lives of children and adults with autism, no matter where they live or what their challenges may be.”


Founded in 2005, Autism Speaks is a nonprofit organization that has worked diligently to support groundbreaking science and research, effective advocacy, and extensive information and services in the U.S. and around the world. Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.


All proceeds of the gala went to Autism Speaks to support its mission.