Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright dies of cancer

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Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright has died after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 69

Autism Speaks Chairman of the Board of Directors Brian Kelly and President and CEO Angela Geiger issued a joint statement in which they said:

What Suzanne Wright has done to raise awareness of autism is immeasurable. Even during the past few difficult months, her determination never wavered. For more than a decade, she has been a tireless advocate on the national and international stage: at the United Nations, on Capitol Hill, at Autism Speaks Walks nationwide, and in personal letters of support to individuals and families affected by autism. Suzanne sparked a global conversation with one question: How can we help people with autism live their best possible lives? Persuading the world to see the potential in each child and adult on the vast autism spectrum is her greatest legacy. As we look to the future, Autism Speaks remains committed to advancing the important mission she began.

In 2005, Suzanne and her husband, Bob Wright, co-founded Autism Speaks after their grandson, Christian, was diagnosed with autism. She is credited with helping to create the organisation’s iconic blue puzzle-piece logo, which is now recognised worldwide. Working with the Ad Council and BBDO Worldwide, the couple launched a 10-year public service announcement campaign that is credited with educating countless families about the early signs of autism. Suzanne also led Autism Speaks’ signature global awareness initiatives. She was key to persuading the United Nations to establish 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day, establishing the annual World Focus on Autism, and launching the international Light It Up Blue campaign, which this year lit landmarks, buildings and homes in 157 countries.

In addition to her work with Autism Speaks, Suzanne had an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavours, primarily focused on helping children. She served on the board of directors for several organisations, including Make-A-Wish Metro New York, the Laura Pels Foundation, the Inner-City Foundation for Charity & Education, and the Philadelphia-based Champions of Caring Project.

She also received numerous awards, including the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the Child Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s National Women’s Division, and the Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In 2008, Suzanne and Bob were named in Time 100’s ‘Heroes and Pioneers’ category for their commitment to global autism advocacy.

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