By Anna Hughes

Approximately one in 36 children across the United States will receive an autism diagnosis. This news is burdensome for families who have a myriad of questions: Will my child be able to attend a regular school? Can they live a normal life? What extra care and attention will they need? Because autism is a spectrum disorder, there are no immediate answers and few surefire solutions.

Turning Pointe Autism Foundation founders Randy and Kim Wolf know that an autism diagnosis is life-changing and often very difficult on the family; it was for them. Their son, Jack, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old. As a young boy, Jack was severely impacted, requiring two live-in caretakers and special education programming. When the Wolfs realized that the resources for children like Jack were limited in the Chicagoland area, they decided to make a change.

“We [had] the resources to help, and to not do anything is just not the right thing to do. So, we just said, ‘Let’s do something about this. Let’s open up a school,’” Randy Wolf said.

In 2005, they had the idea to start the Turning Pointe Autism Foundation to fill the gap left by local public schools, many of which cannot provide the level of care required to meet the needs of autistic students. In 2007, they became an official 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and in 2009, they officially opened the doors to their school. With over 80 full-time staff members for about 70 students, each individual has access to one-on-one training, lessons, and care through various approaches to schooling and programming. These staff members, many of whom commute from surrounding suburbs every day, tirelessly dedicate their time and energy to improving the lives of these people, many of whom are very severely impacted by ASD.

It takes about $5 million to keep the foundation up and running, and one of their biggest fundraisers of the year happens annually in February: the First Look for Charity at the Chicago Auto Show. For Randy, owner of Dan Wolf Automotive Group, this is the perfect occasion to share his mission, destigmatize autism, and raise money to fund the day school and foundation. This black-tie event raises nearly $3 million annually; it is one of Chicago’s largest one-day fundraisers. This year, it supports 18 local charities, including Habitat for Humanity, the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Special Olympics Illinois, and more. This year, Wolf and other board members plan to use the money raised, typically over six figures, for an outdoor space for students.

To participate in the First Look for Charity, on Feb. 9, 2024, visit chicagoautoshow.com. To learn more about Turning Pointe Autism Foundation or to make a donation, visit turningpointeautismfoundation.org. ■

The event was a family affair for the Wolf family in 2017. Daniel Wolf, Dan Wolf Jr., the late Daniel A. Wolf, Sr., Randy Wolf, Kim Wolf, Tammy Wolf and Penny Wolf
Nancy Ferguson and Kim Wolf at the event last year
Tim Stellfox of Valvoline with his wife Kirstin along with Tom Murray of Toyota Naperville with his wife Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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