2016 "Hope Saves the Day" Award Recipients.

This year 2 awards were given out at our 2nd Annual Casino Night Fundraiser.

Aimee LaSala - Head Coach, Team Hope

It is with great pride Autism Radio presents the 2016 “Hope Saves the Day Award” to Aimee LaSala for her leadership she renders to the Board, for her support, and advocacy of Autism Radio’s mission, and for her steadfast commitment to helping families and children who are struggling with Autism every day.

I am not one who likes to talk about myself, but here we go. Paul requested that I share a little of my background with you all. I come from a big family with five amazing siblings and two great and loving parents, who were always very patient with me while I found my purpose. 

My swimming career started at the young age of 4, I began to compete at the age of 5 for Pines Lake swim team. I swam with them until I graduated high school. I realized at the age of 15 when I started to teach swim lessons as a lifeguard that this was something I was good at and had a special knack for. 

It took me awhile to realize that teaching was my special gift. Not just teaching kids to swim but also teaching in school. The Wayne Board of education has given me a place in which to do that with main system and especially my special needs kids for the last 16 years. 

From the mix of my two worlds I have been given this wonderful opportunity to teach swimming to my younger darlings, and to my team, encourage their swimming and their team spirit. I have many parents thank me for how I have helped their child. I would like to take this chance to say thank you to all of them for intrusting me with their children and that I have become a better person and teacher because of all of them.

Thank you


Colleen O’Dea - Therapeutic Horseback Riding Instructor

It is with great pride Autism Radio presents the 2016 “Hope Saves the Day Award” to Colleen O’Dea for her leadership she renders to the Board, for her support, and advocacy of Autism Radio’s mission, and for her steadfast commitment to helping families and children who are struggling with Autism every day.

Colleen O’Dea had a passion for horses since she was as young as she can remember, and to pursue that passion, attended LSU as a pre-vet major. Due to financial considerations, she left school for a job in corporate sales at the age of 21. Her career blossomed and she quickly transferred into management. 

After spending almost 15 years in the corporate world, Colleen decided to follow her passion of horses and helping people. Always having the desire to own a horse, she purchased her first horse, Pralines N Cream, in 2005. Then in late 2009, Colleen left her corporate position to attend an instructor certification course at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding in Connecticut. A few months after returning with her Therapeutic Riding Instructor Certification, she founded Equine Tranquility Wellness Center in May of 2010.  ETWC opened with three rescue horses that first year. Colleen also obtained her Centered Riding Instructor Certification in late 2010.  Over the years Colleen has focused on developing her training, teaching, and education, and currently she is enrolled in the United States Dressage Federation Instructor Certification Program.  Colleen enjoys every day being able to spend time with the horses, and being able to make a difference in the participants and their families’ lives.

Today ETWC serves 50-65 participants a week, and has 16 horses in the program. Within the therapeutic riding program, approximately 70% are diagnosed with Autism or Sensory Processing Disorder. Thanks to our partnership with Autism Radio, ETWC is able to assist with the costs of therapeutic riding to families who already struggle with so many financial obligations.