Autism Education Fund created from Autism Walk proceeds

Autism Education Fund photo

Puzzle pieces are the symbol of autism because they reflect the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum. Participants were invited to decorate puzzle pieces to explain their reasons for participating in the event.

DANVILLE, VA – On Saturday, April 21, over 500 residents of Danville, Pittsylvania County and surrounding cities and counties gathered at the Riverwalk in Danville to participate in the first annual Dan River Autism Awareness 5k. 

Due to requests from participants, the donation deadline was extended through May 31, 2012. Participants raised approximately $22,000, far exceeding the event fundraising goal of $15,000. A portion of the funds was donated to Autism Speaks, a national autism advocacy and research organization. The majority of the funds was used to establish the Autism Education Fund through the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region

“The Dan River Autism Awareness 5k was a first-time, one-day event, but with the endowment of the Autism Education Fund, its impact on our community will be permanent,” said Lauren Mathena, a member of the event planning team. 

The purpose of the Autism Education Fund is broadly defined as “to support autism education-related programs or organizations benefitting individuals, families, educators and the community.” As an endowed fund, the Autism Education Fund will generate interest on principal, which can then be dispersed into the community as grants. Non-profit organizations are eligible to apply directly to the Community Foundation for these grants. Individuals or for-profit organizations may access the fund if a non-profit organization agrees to serve as a fiscal intermediary. 

Mathena said, “We will continue to build the fund by holding the 5k each year, and we hope that our community will access the fund immediately. To get started, we are hosting a reception on June 13th to share more information about the Autism Education Fund with team captains, volunteers, and representatives from related non-profits.” 

Fundraising was only the secondary goal for the Dan River Autism Awareness 5k. The primary goal of the event was to raise awareness about autism in the Dan River Region. After finishing the 5k or 1-mile course, participants joined the post-event autism celebration. Building Blocks Center for Autism and The Hughes Center for Exceptional Children provided educational information about autism. Yard signs containing facts about autism were located between the sign in area and the 5k course. Participants were encouraged to decorate a puzzle piece to share personal reasons for participating in the event. 

Courtney Adams is a member of the planning team and the program director of Building Blocks Center for Autism. Adams said, “We are thrilled with the fundraising amount, but we are most excited about the opportunity to build the sense of community among local individuals, families, educators and others impacted by autism.” 

Building Blocks Center for Autism was a key sponsor of the event. The Hughes Center for Exceptional Children, Danville Regional Medical Center, Center for Pediatric Therapies, and around 15 other local organizations joined them. 

Heather Showalter is a member of the planning team and the Autism program director The Hughes Center. Showalter said, “The Hughes Center is extremely proud to have been a part of such an amazing community event. Autism awareness is so very important as it helps to ensure vital research funding efforts and increased treatment availability for individuals living with Autism. Everyone at The Hughes Center is looking forward to being a part of next year’s event.” 

“Planning is already underway for the second annual Dan River Autism Awareness 5k, which will be held in April 2013. We hope to increase participation and fundraising, and make next year’s event an even more empowering experience for our local autism community,” said Mathena. 

For more information about the Dan River Autism Awareness 5k, visit or email To make a contribution directly to the Autism Education Fund, contact the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region at (434) 793-0884 or visit

About Autism
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism Spectrum Disorders are diagnosed in one in 88 children in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown. (Source:

78 Students Awarded Scholarships


 The Community Foundation awards 78 scholarships totaling more than $129,000 to area students



May 7, 2012  (Danville, VA) – The Community Foundation of the Dan River Region has awarded  78 scholarships totaling more than $129,000 to area students. Presentations from 31 different scholarship funds within The Community Foundation were made at a scholarship reception held May 6, 2012 at The Community Center at Chatham. 

“We are so excited to help open the doors of the future to so many students,” said Debra L. Dodson, Executive Director for The Community Foundation. “We have awarded 591 scholarships totaling more than $1,500,000 since the Foundation began in 1996.”

The Bennett-Bushnell-Jones-Kaufman Scholarship was established from four individual scholarships to benefit outstanding nursing students at Danville Regional Medical Center School of Health Professions.  These scholarships were transferred to The Community Foundation in 2008 by the Piedmont Health Foundation.  Recipients will be announced May 18th.

The James W. Bryant, Sr. and James T. Collie Scholarship was established with The Community Foundation of the Dan River Region in 2005 by a retired school teacher. The scholarship is for Pittsylvania County Public Schools graduates, with a preference for those pursuing education or nursing.  Three scholarships of $1,200 each were awarded to high school seniors Tyler Capps (Dan River High School), Brittnie Cooke (Gretna High School) and Shacolby Fergurson (Chatham High School).

The Bernard C. Calvert Scholarship was established in 2004 by the Brosville Council #51 of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics. The scholarship is restricted to Tunstall High School graduates, preferably students who attended either Brosville or Stony Mill Schools.  Sarah Terrell (Virginia Tech) is receiving $1,450.

The John Watson Daniel Scholarship was established by the JWD Retirement Club in 1997.  A scholarship in the amount of $600 was presented to Hunter Adkins (Dan River High School).

The Danville Academic Boosters Club Scholarship is awarded to the top five scholastic students in Danville Public School system.  The following students are receiving scholarships – Hillary Hylton (Galileo Magnet High School), Elizabeth Carmen (Galileo Magnet High School), Ali Stephens-Pickeral (GWHS), Richard Snyder (GWHS) and Hannah Moore (GWHS).

The Danville Regional Medical Center Auxiliary/Volunteers Scholarship was established in 2007 for Danville Regional Medical Center employees, volunteers and their immediate families, who are studying a medical field.  Nine scholarships of $1,100 each were awarded to Sierra Hill (Tunstall High School), Elizabeth Hyler (Tunstall High School), Haley Key (Tunstall High School), Olivia McCraw (Tunstall High School), Morgan Oakes (James Madison University), Hunter Reese (Tunstall High School), Brianna Ryan (Westover Christian Academy), Taylor Slaughter (Tunstall High School) and Amber Sulter (Lynchburg College).

The Roy L. and Mary G. Doss Scholarship was established in 2010 to benefit graduating seniors of Danville or Pittsylvania County.  The following students received $5,500 each – Joshua Estabrook (Westover Christian Academy), Christopher Hyman (Tunstall High School) and Kristen Light (GWHS).  2011 scholarships were renewed for Calvin Bagby (St. John’s University), Victoria Cox (Virginia Tech), Claire Francisco (Liberty University), Latasha Jennings (University of Virginia), Nathan Unger (University of Georgia) and Christopher Waters (University of Virginia).  Each received $5,500.

One student received the John R. and Betty B. Eggleston Scholarship, established in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Eggleston in 2002. The scholarship was presented to Kaitlin Robertson (Bartlett Yancey High School) in the amount of $700.

The Margaret Spruce Floyd Scholarship was established in memory of Mrs. Floyd and transferred to The Community Foundation in 2003. The scholarship is awarded to female high school students from Pittsylvania County.  Brianna Hess (Chatham High School) received $1,600.

The Gantsoudes Scholarship was established with The Community Foundation in 2008.  The scholarship benefits George Washington High School students attending college in Virginia or North Carolina.  Tyesha Womack (GWHS) received $1,475.

The Roy G. and Joan F. Gignac Scholarship was created in 2000 to benefit area students who may attend the Illinois Institute of Technology or pursue technical disciplines.   Scholarships were awarded to  Phillip Dumont (GWHS), Cody Finch (Chatham High School), Shane Mayhew (Gretna High School) and Ryan Ross (GWHS).  Each received $2,750.

The John B. Grubb Scholarship was established in 2007 in memory of Mr. Grubb to benefit Danville and Pittsylvania County Public School graduates.  Ling Guo (GWHS) received  $625.

The GW Class of 1957 Scholarship was established in 2007 with The Community Foundation.  The Class of 1957 created the scholarship for their 50th High School Reunion to benefit George Washington High School students.  Tipree Graves (GWHS) received $1,025.

The Ray M. Harris Scholarship was created in memory of Mr. Harris and transferred to The Community Foundation in 2004. The scholarship gives primary consideration to Pittsylvania County high school graduates. Two Ray M. Harris scholarships were awarded this year. Tyler Cassidy (Bethel University) and Victoria Gentry (Westover Christian Academy) each received $2,250.

The Stuart Harris Drama Scholarship recognizes outstanding drama students in the Danville Public Schools. LaDawn Noble (GWHS) received $975.

The John L. Hurt, Jr. Scholarship supports students from Gretna High School, with a preference for students who have attended the John L. Hurt, Jr. Elementary School. Amanda Mayhew (Gretna High School) received $1,700.

The Main Street United Methodist Church Scholarship was established in 2007 with the closing of Main Street United Methodist Church and is for local seminary students, with a preference for United Methodist applicants. Edith Robinson-Davis was awarded $2,225 to continue her education at Duke Divinity School.

The Robert and Bernice Milam Scholarship was transferred to the foundation in 2010 from Third Avenue Congregational Christian Church to benefit its active members.  The following students each received $1,900 – Stuart Davis (Greensboro College), Carrie Hartgrove (Longwood University) and Dustin Marshall (Tunstall High School).

Three scholarships totaling $4,350 were awarded from the Onnie H. & Bertie W. Milloway Scholarship to assist area students who attend Averett University. Scholarships were presented to current Averett students  Dennis Bouse III, Margaret Burnette and Jasmine Reid.

The Patrick H. Musick Scholarship was established to provide funding for deserving Averett University students who have a tennis-playing background.  Kelsey Harris (Randolph Henry High School) was awarded $700.

The Arnold B. Porter & Elizabeth J. Porter Scholarship was established in 2006 for students who are members of Fairview United Methodist Church.  Two students, Audrey Savage (GWHS) and Amber Sulter (Lynchburg College), received $1,225 each.

Two area college students received scholarships for $1,400 each from the Irene L. Pritchett Scholarship, created years ago to benefit area black students. The Pritchett scholarship was transferred to The Community Foundation in 2001. Jazmine Willard (Longwood University) and Tyrabia Womble  (Dan River High School) were the recipients.

The Alger Pugh Memorial Scholarship was created in memory of Alger Pugh, GW High School football coach, after his death in 1984. The scholarship was then transferred to The Community Foundation and is given to deserving GW athletes. Two students were awarded scholarships of $1,400 each –  Matthew Riddle (GWHS) and Ali Stephens-Pickeral (GWHS).

Nine Gretna High School seniors were awarded $530 each from the Richard Ramsey Scholarship.  The Scholarship was created in memory of Mr. Ramsey, a Gretna High School teacher, many years ago and transferred to The Community Foundation in 2010.  This scholarship was created to benefit Gretna High School students.  The recipients are Brittnie Cooke, Jasmine Lovelace, Amanda Mayhew, Shane Mayhew, Daniel Nuckols, Sarah Oakes, Devontae Pannell, Afton Richardson and Matthew Wyatt.

Two scholarships in the amount of 1,050 were given from the Riddle-Francis Scholarship, which was created in 2005 by a former teacher to benefit Pittsylvania County students, with a preference for Tunstall and Dan River students. The scholarships were awarded to Taylor Jones (Tunstall High School) and Morgan Williams (Tunstall High School).

The Percy and Velna Scearce Scholarship was created in 2001 to benefit area students. Lindsey Roberts (Westover Christian Academy) received $1,300.

The Spiros Skenderis Memorial Scholarship was created by the Danville Bar Association in memory of Judge Spiros Skenderis. Judge Skenderis served as a compassionate judge of the Danville Juvenile and Domestic Relations District for 19 years.  A $1,600 scholarship was awarded to Carlos Magana (GWHS).

The Eileen and Joseph Stendig Scholarship was created in 2005 to benefit area students.  Audrey Savage (GWHS) was awarded $1,850.

The Louise P. Surles Scholarship supports area students who attend the University of Virginia.  Rachel Nicholson (Chatham High School) and Hollie Shorter (Tunstall High School) were awarded $1,150 each.

The Florence P. Wagner and Jennie Lee Wagner Scholarship was established in 2008 to provide scholarships to Pittsylvania County high school graduates.  Rachel Brown (Chatham High School) was awarded $825.

The Andy Warren Memorial Scholarship was created in memory of GW High School assistant football coach and is given to deserving GW athletes.  Rachel Kilgore (former GWHS athlete continuing her education at Virginia Commonwealth University) was awarded $1,150.  High school senior, Ashley Riddle (GWHS) also received $1,150.

The Community Foundation of the Dan River Region, formerly known as DPC Community Foundation, is a public charity with total assets of $23 million. The Foundation serves a region from Martinsville-Henry County to South Boston/Halifax County, including the neighboring North Carolina counties.

The Community Foundation of the Dan River Region is a fully tax-exempt organization. Individuals or businesses may establish their own endowment or scholarship fund or may contribute any amount to existing funds. For more information, contact Debra L. Dodson at 541 Loyal Street, Danville, VA, 24541, (434) 793-0884 or visit their web site