Autism benefit part of project

Adam Larck
Bryan Himmel, the creator of the Autism Speaks Benefit and Concert, shows a framed photo of the Chicago Bears, complete with laser-etched autographs, which will be auctioned off.

An upcoming benefit for autism came about with a junior high project.

Bryan Himmel, an eighth-grader at Bethel Lutheran School, came up with the idea of the benefit for his Making A Difference project.

"In order to graduate, all eighth-graders at Bethel Lutheran School have to do a project where they raise money or help someone out through fundraising or community work," he said.

His original idea for the project was to tutor children in the area.

However, he came up with the benefit idea after thinking about his cousin, Kelsey, who was diagnosed with autism 16 years ago.

The Autism Speaks Benefit and Concert will take place from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at Bethel Lutheran School.

The cost is $6 per person, with all money raised going to Autism Speaks.

The event will feature a concert by Rachel West Kramer and The Kramers.

"(Rachel) sang at my parent's wedding," Himmel said. "She also comes to our school every year and sings there. We have a couple of friends that know her.

"I saw her at the school the day she was performing and we talked to her and she was happy to come and perform."

Himmel said the event will be a "nice, casual social gathering," complete with snacks and drinks provided by Eli's Coffee.

It will also feature various silent auction and raffle items. Raffle tickets will cost $1 each.

Some of the prizes include a three-night stay in Las Vegas Wynn/Encore Hotel and a spa package, a two-night stay at Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis, four Disney World park hopper passes, St. Louis Cardinal tickets and more.

There have also been various local businesses that have donated items as well.

"We started going around and handed out personalized letters to companies," Himmel said. "We actually have 52 donations now from different businesses."

Originally, Himmel said he set a goal of 40 donations. Now, donations are totaling more than $4,000.

"We're very excited about all the items and very glad for all the help," he said.

Bryan's mother, Deb, said that there has been an "amazing outpouring of donations" from the community.

"I'm really proud of him," she said.

• Three nights at the Las Vegas Wynn/Encore Hotel and a spa package for two from Advanced Aesthetics Med Spa

• Two nights at Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis

• Four Disney World park hopper passes

• St. Louis Cardinals tickets

• Weaver Ridge golf package and brunch

• Lands' End gift cards and tote bag

• Jacque Austin photography session package

• Maui Jim gift basket

• Chicago Bears laser autographed and framed photo

• Chicago Bulls autographed team pennant

• Appearances gift basket

• Fresh 20-pound turkey from Yordy Turkey Farm

• Various other donations

Silent auction, raffle items