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No Downtown buildings to be lit blue tonight for Autism Awareness Day

By Sonali Kohli
Published: Monday, April 02, 2012, at 06:11PM
Flickr/David Jones

Staples Center is always blue, so they will show a video before today's game and donate some of the ticket sales to Autism Speaks.

The Empire State Building in New York, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil and Santa Monica's Google office will all have something in common Monday night – they’ll be blue.

But Downtown will be business as usual, visually.

For the past three years, the organization Autism Speaks has asked businesses and individuals to light their buildings (or homes) blue on April 2 to kick off Autism Awareness Month, said Phillip Hain, the west region director for Autism Speaks.

But Downtown LA, home to some of the city’s tallest and most visible buildings, won’t shine a different color this year.

The “Light It Up Blue” campaign encourages people to learn about autism, Hain explained. This increases knowledge of the recent growth in autism diagnoses and the challenges of families who care for autistic children or adults, he said.

Hain knows a few things about the disorder as he has a 19-year-old son who is autistic. He’s been involved with Autism Speaks for 15 years.

Volunteers started calling businesses as early as November or December to ask for participation. Some declined due to cost and/or the idea that changing lights for one organization means they would be obliged to change lights for all of them, Hain said.

Last year, the Nokia Plaza at LA Live was lit blue, complementing the always-blue Staples Center across the street. But this year the Nokia Center won’t change its lights, explained Michael Roth, the vice president of communications for AEG.

Tonight inside Staples Center, a video about autism will be played before the L.A. King’s game. Autism Speaks will receive portion of tonight’s ticket earnings, Asner said.

The closest building to Downtown that’s participating in the campaign is the Von KleinSmid Center at USC. At 7 p.m., the globe atop the university’s tallest building will be lit blue for the first time.

Grace Kim, a second-year neuroscience student who heads the USC chapter of Autism Speaks, began working with the school to light the globe in January. The Facilities department will put a temporary fixture on the light in the globe to make it shine blue tonight, Kim said.

Asner started his post as executive director recently, so he expects Los Angeles to be more blue next year.

But with zero Downtown buildings lit tonight, how does he hope to get more businesses to cooperate?

“I’m very good at making phone calls,” he said.

For now though, Autism Speaks expects about 3,000 buildings and monuments to dot the world with blue tonight.

“It used to be when you said ‘autism,’ people would give you a strange look,” Hain said. “Now so many people know about autism. At least there’s a base awareness.”


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