Essentially, a child can function within society when they’re able to perform simple tasks like tying their shoes and putting things away. However, for children with autism, these tasks can be extremely difficult or even impossible. Being able to reach more kids and help them live within the mainstream is what inspired local attorney, Garrett Sutton, to come up with the idea for the Sierra Kids Foundation.
He knew Joanne Ryan, whose son had entered the University of Nevada, Reno Early Childhood Autism Program at the age of five and had learned many valuable skills that he might not have learned if not for the dedication of his tutors. Garrett was inspired and touched by the work Dr. Patrick Ghezzi’s grad students were able to accomplish with the children enrolled in the Early Childhood Autism Program. Together, Garrett and Joanne approached Dr. Ghezzi and asked how they could help offer scholarships that would enable more children to stay in the program for the entire two years.
“The program is not paid for by the school district or by insurance and was cost prohibitive,” Dr. Ghezzi explained. All three understood that there was a great need to raise scholarships, as cost was generally a limiting factor in the treatment process for some children. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Ghezzi and Garrett coined the name Sierra Kids Foundation.
Together, along with Joanne, they came up with the idea of the Wild West Shootout, an annual high school basketball tournament, which is the primary source of funding for the scholarship program. As both the Sierra Kids Foundation and the Wild West Shootout tournament continue to grow, the foundation strives to reach more and more families and children with autism in Northern Nevada.
Sutton, Ryan and Dr. Ghezzi now sit on the Board of Directors, along with current president Dr. Tomas Hinojosa, Herb Santos, Jr., Rick Abend, Bill Ballinger, Christy Fuller, Mitch Woods, Stasi Taylor and Bryan Samudio.