Since 1957, the Wheat Ridge Optimist Club has been providing hope and positive vision to children in the Wheat Ridge/Edgewater community. In addition to traditional youth programs, Wheat Ridge started a new inclusive program in 2019 featuring autism kits.
Autism Rescue Kits are designed to assist first responders when working with children and young adults on the autism spectrum who have been involved in a traumatic incident, such as an automobile accident.
The kits have 13 individual pieces designed to protect patients from loud noises and shining lights, and assist in calming them during the event. Sound-reducing earmuffs, sunglasses, cuddle blankets, communication boards and various fidget devices are included in the backpack.
The Optimist Club raised funds to build Autism Rescue Kits and provide them to first responders at no cost. The kits are assembled by Boy Scout Troop 448 in Lakewood. One of the scouts, named Noah, is on the autism spectrum and has been involved since day one. The kits were then named after him – NOAH’s Autism Rescue Kit.
What started as a small community project has grown into statewide distribution and is getting requests from throughout the United States and Canada. The Colorado/Wyoming Optimist District has officially made this program part of the Childhood Health and Wellness Program. Optimist International, with headquarters in St. Louis, is looking to make this program available throughout its membership.
Edgewater’s police, recreation, and Communications & Events departments, and Wheat Ridge’s police department, were some of the first to put the kits into service. The Arvada Fire Department was the first to add the kits in their trucks and ambulances. In addition to first responders, we also have kits with School Resource Officers and Victim Outreach Services. Over four hundred kits have been built and distributed throughout Colorado.
We work closely with first responders, families and autism programs to make sure the kits keep up with current trends. The program is also set up to assist families experiencing first-time diagnosis. We have scheduled attendance at numerous events throughout the summer including Arvada Fire CarFest, West Metro Fire Family Muster, Autism Speaks Walk and – of course – the Edgewater Hometown Festival. Be sure to stop by our booth and say hello!
For additional information or questions about our Autism Rescue Kits, or other Wheat Ridge Optimist Club youth programs, please contact us by email or website: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.wheatridgeoptimist.org
Bill Cassel is a member of the Wheat Ridge Optimist Club and the City of Edgewater Arborist.