December 11, 2016

Editorial: CANDO spirit in Worcester

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It’s Dec. 11. We’re in the thick of things now!

From giving thanks to giving presents, folks are in the middle of a month-long season that does the heart good.

Charitable giving goes into high gear over the holidays, too. Whether we drop coins in a red Salvation Army kettle or write a check to a pet cause before the tax year ends, it feels good to be kind.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center must be feeling like a million bucks. Their Winter Ball at Mechanics Hall Dec. 2 outdid itself this year, passing the $1 million mark in a night of dancing, dining and donating.

Close to a quarter of that figure will go to assist children and their families dealing with autism and other challenges, including behavioral and emotional disorders. The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Clinic — which goes by the encouraging acronym CANDO — will receive nearly $250,000 as a result of the fundraiser, according to the school.

CANDO, an outpatient clinic at the UMass medical complex at 55 North Lake Ave., is a repeat recipient of funds raised at the Winter Ball, and a deserving one. A joint effort of UMass Memorial Medical Center and the medical school’s Department of Psychiatry, the clinic deals knowledgeably and compassionately with conditions that top minds in medicine and research are striving mightily to better understand.

Autism alone — almost everyone knows people affected by this puzzle — is more than enough reason to inspire contributions. CANDO also diagnoses and provides interdisciplinary treatments for a range of mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders.

“Most of the families who come to us are desperate,” the clinic’s leader, Dr. Jean Frazier, says in a video posted by UMass Medical School. She notes that specialists at CANDO treat mood disorders, anxiety, psychosis and other conditions that, like autism, can be quite complex. “I am so happy when we can help a family.”

The Dec. 2 fundraiser drew 400 people wanting to help make such happiness happen, including philanthropists, healthcare professionals, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. CANDO was the designated “Fund-A-Need” at the event, and the nearly $250,000 brought in for it was not only the highest amount yet for a Fund-A-Need, but is being matched by an anonymous donor.

Counting this year’s $1 million, the eighth annual Winter Ball has raised nearly $6 million since it began.

We are lucky to live in a place that gives so much, all year round. Excellent health care, educational and service resources are there when we need them.

Quietly and reliably, citizens are there in return, reaching into their pockets to support endeavors of all kinds. Often they’re assisting people they’ll never meet. At Christmastime and around the year, this is a side of Worcester we’ve seen time and again. It’s a ready spirit of close-knit generosity, involving people of all means and circumstances, and it helps make us a community.

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