Every time the professional fighters meet their opponents in the ring and the octagon, they must focus on their personal strengths – from physical and mental toughness to psychological and emotional drive. It’s all about being a warrior.
Christian Mitchell, founder and president of Fighting for Autism, feels much the same way. An autism awareness and advocacy charitable organization, Fighting for Autism operates several initiatives through the professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu markets. To Mitchell, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a condition that affects 1 in every 68 children, is a cause well worth fighting for.
Fighting for Autism has a worldwide presence with headquarters in Sydney, Australia, (led by Mitchell) which oversees Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island Operations, as well as operational sites in London, United Kingdom, (led by Managing Director of European Operations, Paul Greany) which oversees all European Operations. Longtime Missouri fight official and judge Brian Higginbotham manages all U.S., Canadian and Caribbean operations.
According to Higginbotham, Fighting for Autism only focuses on the positives. “Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all children and families that live with autism around the world. Our directors, including myself, are parents of children with autism. We have some extremely popular professional fighters that are ambassadors of our organization, who fight in the UFC, Bellator, Titan and other major MMA promotions,” he said.
Higginbotham added representatives from Fighting for Autism speak at hundreds of professional MMA and Boxing events annually around the world. “We operate a variety of initiatives such as a Mentoring Program, where our Fighter Ambassadors spend time at various autism schools with kids, a very popular Anti-Bullying Initiative, where we hold seminars at schools where our Fighter Ambassadors speak about autism and bullying and its impact,” he said. “We have a Technology Initiative where we put tablet computers into the hands of our supporters through Awareness and Acceptance PR campaigns.”
Fighting for Autism also promotes autism-friendly martial arts training and certifies gyms and martial arts schools on how to effectively work with the autism community.
With 50 professional fighter ambassadors across the globe, Higginbotham said their main focus is on autism awareness and acceptance. Since MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, they are able to reach a vast audience base through this platform.
Plans are currently underway to reach Hispanic nations including Central and South American countries. All sites work jointly with the objective of making a global impact on autism.
Fighting for Autism’s long-term goals include developing and operating various autism therapy and educational centers around the world. Their long-term objective is to establish a single facility focused on autism, much like a shopping center, with autism-specific businesses, parks, pools, doctors and therapists. It is also their aim to build parks and other recreational facilities geared toward children and adults with ASD.
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As Fighting for Autism grows and strives to reach its mission to improve the lives of ASD families, they must rely on the support and financial assistance through donations. Business and individual contributions, sponsorships and fundraising events are necessary to achieve long-term goals. In addition to collecting much-needed funding, organizing public events such as a run/walk/bike event, sports tournament, picnic, meet and greet, carwash, toy drive and/or raffle brings awareness to the ASD community and its needs. This commitment, ultimately, will help win the fight.
We will NEVER STOP! We WILL FIGHT!!
This article was featured in Issue 26 – A Season of Peace