Tag Archives: Autism Speaks

Ethan Walmark Rocks The Kennedy Center

When you are 6 years old, a YouTube video of you playing “Piano Man” goes viral.

You perform live on the “Today Show.” You’re one of only 14 people worldwide — and the youngest — to receive a “Genius of Autism” award. Then you win it again.

The Huffington Post names you 1 of 20 “Child Prodigies.”

You help Yoko Ono flip the switch to light the Empire State Building blue for World Autism Awareness Day.

You’re on NBC’s “Today Show” and CBS’s “Early Show.” You sing the national anthem in front of 25,000 fans at Red Bull Arena.

What do you do for an encore?

If you’re Ethan Walmark, you follow Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Billy Joel and Elton John at the 1st-ever Autism Awareness Gala Fundraiser at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

And you bring down the house.

The 12-year-old Coleytown Middle School student/piano prodigy did that last week. He performed 4 songs, closing with “You are the Sunshine of My Life.” Ethan dedicated it to his sister Eliza, who was in the audience.

So if you’re Ethan Walmark, what will you do next?

“Finish 6th grade,” he says.

Click below for a YouTube video of Ethan’s set:

 

Ethan Walmark Nails The National Anthem — And Life

Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is tough under any circumstances.

It’s even harder in front of a crowd of 25,000. In a stadium, with background noise, delay from the sound system, and god knows what else as you stand all alone on the field.

It’s particularly difficult when you’re only 11 years old.

But Westport’s own Ethan Walmark aced it on Saturday. He brought a sellout Major League Soccer crowd to its feet at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, powering through our national anthem like a pro.

Which he is.

Ethan’s band Clueless — formed by fellow School of Rock musicians — has opened 3 times for the all-female cover band Lez Zeppelin.

He’s been a Broadway “School of Rock” finalist. A lead performer in numerous theatrical productions.

In 2012 — when he was only 6 — a video of him playing and singing “Piano Man” went viral. It was viewed nearly 2 million times. Billy Joel himself said, “I like his intro better than mine. Maybe he could teach me a few things.”

Ethan is a hometown hero.

But he’s an international hero too. Every day, he demonstrates how much someone on the autism spectrum can accomplish.

Ethan began playing piano by ear when he was just 15 months old.

However, a preschool educator advised his parents, Michael and Allison, to take away his music. “You want him in your world, not his,” they were told.

Instead, they fostered his talents. They exposed him to as many musical experiences as they could. More than any other therapy, music positively transformed every aspect of Ethan’s existence.

In his young life, Ethan has been a 2-time (and youngest) recipient of the McCarron Foundation’s “Genius of Autism” Award.

He was named Autism Speaks’ 2012-13 “Volunteer of the Year.” On World Autism Awareness Day, he helped Yoko Ono light the Empire State Building.

Ethan Walmark and Yoko Ono. Channeling John Lennon, he told, her, “Imagine a world without autism.”

Ethan thrives in his Westport public school classroom. In the summer, he attends French Woods Festival for the Arts sleepaway camp.

Those are remarkable achievements. But I still don’t think anything can compare to nailing the world’s most difficult national anthem, in a stadium full of people who usually hear it mangled and maimed by professional musicians 5 times his age.

(Click here for a collection of YouTube videos starring Ethan Walmark. Click here for “06880”‘s story on Ethan’s “Piano Man” video. Hat tip: Westport 2nd selectman and Red Bulls season ticket holder Avi Kaner.)

Water, Water Everywhere…

In the 1st World, we don’t think much about water. (Unless — as happened recently in Flint and at Staples High School — it turns discolored.)

But Ben Goldstein does.

Since age 9, Ben — now a Staples senior — has raised money for charity. He’s earned awards from Autism Speaks, for bringing in more than $10,000 a year for 5 years.

As a sophomore — fascinated by business — he decided to start his own venture. He wanted to include a charitable component too.

That summer, Ben took a business course at Brown University. It spurred him to develop an idea, a name and a business plan. He chose Choice Water.

Choice Water logo

Ben spoke with industry professionals, bottlers, plastic manufacturers and deli owners. He learned all he could about the bottled water industry.

What makes Choice Water different from the bajillions of other water bottles out there is that — based on the label they choose — consumers can direct a portion of the purchase price to different charities. So far, Ben  has lined up 2: Autism Speaks and Child Advocates of Southwest Connecticut.

Using the 99designs website, Ben found a woman in Indonesia to create his logo, and a man in Hungary to design the label.

Ben hit the pavement, talking with local deli and grocery store owners about refrigerator space. It’s not easy competing against Poland Spring and Coke. But Choice Water is on sale in all 4 Garelick & Herbs locations, Oscar’s, Gold’s, Fortuna’s and Village Bagels.

Ben Goldstein and Jim Eckel at Gold's Delicatessen.

Ben Goldstein and Jim Eckl at Gold’s Delicatessen.

“Each store is different,” Ben says. “Competition is different, space is different, the clientele is different.” In one store he may compete against 1 brand of water; in another, 6. He’s learned to adapt his product’s presentation for each store.

Ben believes Choice Water is important because “it’s an easy way for people to do good, while doing something they were going to do anyway. If you have a choice between buying water that supports a local charity, or a bottle from a multi-billion-dollar company…”

In addition, Choice Water empowers consumers to pick exactly which charity they like. Ben hopes to have more choices soon, and more locations throughout Fairfield County.

Westport Sunrise Rotary has honored Ben for his work.

Now it’s up to us. Which water will we choose?

Choice Water bottles

 

Minuteman Speaks Up For Autism Awareness

The Minuteman has been many things during his 100-plus years in town: Santa Claus. Easter bunny. Anti-war protester.

Today, however, may be the 1st time he’s an advocate for autism awareness.

Minuteman - Autism Awareness 2

Our town hero looks very sharp — and committed — with his Autism Speaks hat, sweatshirt, bag and water bottles.

(Hat tip: Stacey Henske)

 

Autism Speaks — And Ethan Rocks

Two years ago, “06880” profiled Ethan Walmark. The 6-year-old — on the autism spectrum, as a very high-functioning child — played and sang “Piano Man” in a YouTube video. It went viral (over 1.5 million views), and Ethan was an international star.

A lot has happened since.

Billy Joel called Ethan’s intro “better than mine.” Ethan performed live on the “Today Show.” He was 1 of only 14 people worldwide — and the youngest — to receive a “Genius of Autism” award. (Then he won it again.) The Huffington Post named him 1 of 20 “Child Prodigies.”

He helped Yoko Ono flip the switch to light the Empire State Building blue for World Autism Awareness Day. Ethan looked her in the eye and said, “Imagine a world without autism!”

Meeting Ethan before a concert, John Mayer said, “Hey, I know you! You’re the internet sensation!”

Ethan’s performance of “Eminence Front” brought down the house — at a Who show.

Clearly, Ethan rocks.

He’s got plenty of talent, for sure. And — after his parents enrolled him in Fairfield’s School of Rock — Ethan’s cognition, social abilities and musicality soared.

Now, Ethan — the resident “rock star” of Kings Highway Elementary School –brings his international talents to his home town.

This Saturday (March 22, 6:30 p.m.), 2 bands — Clueless and Pearl — perform at Toquet Hall. All musicians play at the School of Rock. All are from Westport and Fairfield.

Ethan — now 8 — is the youngest participant. By 5 years.

School of Rock logo

The bands play music by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Black Crowes, Santana and more. Many of the songs relate in some way to people on the autism spectrum.

Last November, the School of Rock house band drummer asked Ethan’s mother, Allison Ziering Walmark, if Ethan could join them in the concert.

“School of  Rock fosters an atmosphere of acceptance and respect, regardless of musical ability,” she says. “Ethan truly considers his bandmates his friends, and vice versa. The mere concept of friendship can be so foreign to people on the autism spectrum.”

A few days later, the band sent Allison another email: They wanted the concert to be a benefit for Autism Speaks.

If that doesn’t make your heart sing, nothing will.

Autism Speaks

Ethan And Billy Joel Go Viral

Ethan is a 6-year-old kindergartner in the Westport Public Schools.

He’s on the autism spectrum, as a very high functioning child.

He’s also a very talented musician. After hearing a song 2 or 3 times — pop, classical, whatever — he plays it perfectly on the piano. It’s a full mind and body experience for him — he’s totally into each piece.

Recently, his mother Allison — who, with her husband Michael, is the top fundraiser in Fairfield and Westchester Counties for Autism Speaks — filmed a video of Ethan playing piano, and singing, “Piano Man.”

Ethan’s speech teacher, Shari Goldstein, uploaded it to YouTube. Shari’s friend saw it and sent it along to Reddit. They put it on their “Featured Videos” page.

In less than 2 days, it’s gotten over 55,000 views. Over 300 people have posted great comments.

Ethan loves audiences as much as he loves music. Last year he performed in front of a huge crowd at an Autism Speaks benefit.

But that was nothing compared to this.

Today, Ethan has an international audience.

And it grows every minute.

(To make a pledge toWalk Now for Autism Speaks on Ethan’s behalf, click here.)