By Philtrina Farquharson, Contributing Writer

Autism and special needs children matter, and the success of the 14th annual Pink Pump Affair proved just that. More than 350 dynamic women came together this past Sunday, May 15, at The Beverly Hilton Hotel to benefit the Special Needs Network (SNN), a nonprofit addressing autism and other developmental disabilities crises throughout Southern California. While funds were raised at this event, Black women were also honored, and creatives had the opportunity to share their talents through an exclusive fashion show.

“This is my first time being here, and I am super excited because my brother-in-law is autistic, so this is very beneficial to me to learn about the work being done at Special Needs Network,” said Nimi Adokiye.

The Pink Pump Affair was filled with community presence as Pat Harvey, CBS LA News Anchor, was Mistress of Ceremonies and took guests along the journey of this nonprofit and the 14 years of this event and 17 years total of the organization’s existence. The Special Needs Network started in 2005 when two moms struggled to find support and services for their children diagnosed with autism. These moms were disheartened by the lack of services accessible for children with special needs and their families.

One of the moms, Areva D. Martin Esq, author, award-winning civil rights attorney, commentator, and a group of concerned community leaders, leveraged their resources, beginning the Special Needs Network. This organization has made it their mission to educate and raise awareness of autism and related disorders and bring healthcare services and educational resources to underserved communities. SNN also provides unique learning opportunities for children who need it and advocates for fair policy-making through government resources.

“Areva has changed the term special needs because every child needs something special. The great thing about SNN is that it helps the kids and the parents because it may be difficult to raise that child by yourself when you have a special needs child. I hope that this organization continues long after us”, said Actress Anna Maria Horsford.

The SNN provides services and programs for children that give families peace of mind through its mission, including the Parent Advocacy Mentor Program (PAM). This eight-week training program offers parents and caretakers the tools to become better equipped to care for someone with special needs. “I took the class, and it changed our lives. It gave me a full understanding of my legal rights and services that were available to children with special learning needs,” said Akilah McRoy, attendee and mom of Audreona McRoy.

Audreona McRoy is an 18-year-old with special needs honored for her leadership, inspiring robust growth, and extraordinary change throughout the community; she was awarded Special Needs Network’s 2022 Everyday Award.

Comedian Lunell and LGBTQIA+ advocate and singer/songwriter attended the event to support their friend Areva and the cause. After the pink carpet, guests headed to the ballroom. Attendees were graced with a fashion show led by Toshiba Jones-Wilson, presenting the works of four sought-after Black designers, Izayla, Madame Adassa, Claude Kameni (also known as Lavie by CK), and Rene Tyler. “I am extremely excited to be a part of this event while also being the first Black retail store in Playa Vista. Showcasing our independent designers really means a lot to me,” said Toshiba Jones-Wilson, celebrity fashion stylist and owner of MaTte ArGyLe.

The event ended with the announcement of Silent Auction Winners and a few closing remarks from Maya Van Barclay, SNN Communications + Strategic Partnerships.

“I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love for the 14th annual PINK PUMP AFFAIR. The generous donations will allow the Special Needs Network to continue the transformative work of fighting and advocating for Black and brown kids with autism and other special needs. The Pink Pump Affair was put together to raise awareness and ensure that they are valued and given every opportunity to thrive in our society,” said Areva Martin, founder, and president of Special Needs Network.

The funds raised at the event will send children with autism and special needs to a summer camp known as Camp JPAC and will also go towards the opening of a new autism clinic set to open in Fall 2022. on the campus of Martin Luther King hospital in South Los Angeles. To learn more or support the Special Needs Network, visit https://snnla.org/.