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By Sally Absher

April is Autism Awareness Month. The Knoxville community is invited to learn more about autism and share in the real-life experiences through the eyes of local autism families. April Roga is hosting “AutisMatters to Knoxville” where she is expecting a packed house in recognition of Autism Awareness Month. The event will be held at Mulligans Pizzeria, 8923 Linksvue Dr. (off Ebenezer) on Sunday, April 12th from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free, and food and drink may be purchased at the restaurant.

April lives in Knoxville with her husband and their 5 year-old nonverbal son who was diagnosed with autism in October 2012.  There are days filled with frustration as they go through the process of helping their son to find “his voice” while navigating the difficulties of “the system”.  However, Roga goes on to say it is the moments of joy, laughter, and successes (big and small) that far outweigh even the darkest of days.  This family can’t even remember what their life was like before their cute little boy came into this world and fully captured their hearts.

Patti and Don Anderson are the owners of Mulligans Pizzeria in Knoxville, and they have graciously offered their venue for this educational event which also includes live music from local talents Freequency, Jay Eric, The Kincaid Band, Josiah Atchley & the Greater Good, and K-Town Mafia.  Come take part in helping to raise awareness and promote autism acceptance and you may find yourself the lucky winner of 18 holes of golf, haircuts, manicures, pedicures, facials, artwork, photography sessions, and much more!!

Last year on World Autism Awareness Day, April and her family were interviewed by WVLT, but this year they wanted to do something different. They wanted to engage and interact with the local community. Roga also reached out to Mayors Tim Burchett and Madeline Rogero, and Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre requesting their participation. Roga told The Knoxville Focus that she invited the Mayors and the Superintendent hoping that their interest in the cause might encourage others to learn more about this ever-growing neurological disorder.