Tommy Hilfiger's battle to fight autism.
By Patricia Abaroa
It is estimated that one in 88 children in the United States currently has autism. Simply put, the autism spectrum is a general term for a group of complex disorders within the brain that affect social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviors.
Two of the millions of children diagnosed as autistic just happen to be very close to fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger. In 2008, Tommy married his wife, Dee, and they became a blended family with 6 children. Two of these children, Tommy’s daughter, Kathleen, and Dee’s son, Alex, are both on the spectrum. The Hilfigers have since been very vocal about their personal experience with the disease. The Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation provides financing for autism awareness and research. The corporation has represented the Tommy Hilfiger Group’s philanthropic interests for over 15 years, which also include programs for education, youth and families.
This summer proved to be a busy one for the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation. August 22nd marked a celebration of the ongoing collaboration between the foundation and Autism Society San Diego. It was a day of fun in the sun hosted by actor Josh Bowman and professional surfers Kalani Robb, C.J. Kanuha, and Alek Parker at the organization’s annual summer surf camp in San Diego’s La Jolla Shores.
Every summer, Autism Society San Diego, holds the five week event for those affected by autism, ages 5 and up. The camp provides one-on-one surfing and swimming instruction classes. Through corporate donations and funds, the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation has managed to underwrite the Camp for underprivileged families in the San Diego area through 2016.
In June, actor Josh Bowman, Kalani Robb, Gary Sheinbaum (CEO of Tommy Hilfiger North America) and InStyle magazine’s Fashion Director, Cindy Weber Cleary co-hosted the event for the newest Tommy Hilfiger store opening in San Diego’s Fashion Valley Mall, benefiting Autism Society San Diego.
Since 2012, Tommy and Dee have been proud board members of Autism Speaks, one of the leading autism and science advocacy organizations. Throughout the years, the couple has worked closely together with Autism Speaks founders Bob and Suzanne Wright, whose own grandchild has autism. Bob Wright has commended Tommy and Dee for their courage in openly sharing their personal story.
In 2010, Tommy and Dee co-hosted Autism Speaks’ Third Annual Focus on Autism. In December 2011, Hilfiger was honored at “A Funny Affair”, a benefit for Autism Speaks and the New York Center for Autism. The event raised $1.3 million for research and services for families. This year, Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation outfitted 150 volunteers at Autism Speaks’ 15th Annual Celebrity Golf Challenge.
In a public service announcement narrated by Tommy Hilfiger, we learn the difficult odds of making it in the fashion industry (1 in 23 million) in comparison with the odds of having a child with autism (1 in 88). With such high odds, it is clear that the American family continues to change. The Tommy Hilfiger brand, which, for decades, has embodied the classic all-American spirit is meeting that change, one day at time, with effective actions. ■
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