We say that Kirby is the Village founder. Now fifteen years old, he’s been living with a classic autism diagnosis since he was 18 months old. Kirby is happy, healthy, and physically fit, and he loves Thomas and his friends from the Island of Sodor - a lot. Kirby is a “sensory kid” who loves to fall and jump and run and dive and swim and he sleeps with a hand-made, weighted blanket that we found from an “autism mom” who makes them out west. Kirby has a large extended family and for 11½ years Kirby has inspired all of us around him to learn about autism, to try new things, to experiment with therapies, and also to help everyone we can on their own autism journey. And now Kirby’s friends have created the land of Autism Village where we all hope to be “really useful engines” that create practical tools and capabilities for everyone in the Autism community.
There are a myriad of educational apps on the internet for parents of autistic children, but Autism Village is different. Autism Village is producing apps which are especially designed to be useful for managing life with autism and which are based on their community of autism “Villagers”.
Imagine for a moment that you deal with the never ending problem that people with autism and their families face - where’s a good place to go which is safe and won’t over stimulate me or my autistic loved one. Places where people feel comfortable and can have FUN, and which are staffed by understanding and helpful people. Just have a look at the Autism Village app and you’ll quickly find nearby places rated and reviewed by others like yourself.
The first release from Autism Village will provide similar functionality to Yelp! or Trip Advisor but with one big difference – this app is just for the autism community. The autism community will be able to rate and review businesses, organizations and places specifically for autism friendliness. Click here to see a demo...
Topher Wurts, father of the proclaimed “founder” Kirby his autistic son, conceived the idea of Autism Village as an initiative to produce practical, useful, and helpful management tools and services for those living life on the autism spectrum. The goal? Improve the future for millions with autism.
Several months ago Topher launched a Facebook and Twitter account to engage parents of autistic children with his concept. The Facebook social media response was overwhelming - within weeks 10,000 Facebook followers encouraged Topher to pursue his idea. All part of the “Village”, family members are spreading the word for Topher and Kirby to make the world a better, more manageable place to grow and thrive in.
The core elements of Autism Village’s first app are culminating in a Kickstarter campaign to further develop his project and finish the app.
Wurts is asking for a few simple core contributions from the Autism village audience relating to the Kickstarter: share his project and mission with friends, family and others related to autism, submissions for places or services that are autism friendly, and social media support because he sees supporters as more important than dollars.
When the Kickstarter is launched, he’s asking everyone who wants to support the project to look at the amazing rewards Autism Village has put together from friends of the Autism Village community. Many of the listed rewards are made by people with autism including Autism Village’s founder Kirby. His hope is that the community will help him “meet or exceed” his minimum funding goal to further the project.
Ahead of the Kickstarter “Yelp for Autism” campaign, Wurts’ initial objective has been successful with some notable early adopters. Currently running on the pre-release service are family teams, an all-autistic Boy Scout Troop and a joint project to develop Scouting curriculum elements involving West Chester University’s School of Special Education, the Chester County Council of the Boy Scouts of America and BSA Troop 77 (all autistic). He plans to expand the capability of the pre-release service in the near future.
According to Wurts, the roadmap for Autism Village is extensive. In addition to these private and secure collaboration spaces along with the initial Kickstarter project to rate and review places, he’s planning the creation of a specialized marketplace for goods produced for and by autistic people (like Etsy for Autism), extensive moderated and open forums, drug intervention tracking tools, mobile logging and integration with wearables for those dealing with seizures, and more.
With a successful Kickstarter project, the goal to empower the community of “Villagers” will make the challenges of millions, who are raising a autistic child, more manageable and the outcome for that child will be a brighter, happier, better future.
Kirby Wurts is the impetus behind Autism Village. After Kirby was diagnosed with autism at 18 months old, his extended family and friends embraced autism as a way of life. They’ve done everything they can to help Kirby but they’ve also looked for ways to help others living “on the spectrum". Kirby loves Thomas and Friends, camping with his all autistic Scout troop, and wearing lots of hats at once. He also loves the French fries he gets at VIP Pizza & Pasta.
Topher Wurts has been around the block a few times in the world of business where he was known for bringing together marketing, technology and teamwork. After learning his son Kirby had autism, he was floored. He and his family had become one of 2.8 million families in the U.S. who have been affected by autism. So, putting his entrepreneurial hat on, he invented Autism Village.
Laura Trumbull is a senior info tech executive from the financial and media industries. She served as global head of Women@Thomson Reuters from inception through growth to over 30 chapters and 4000 members. Laura serves on boards of a number of nonprofit organizations. Laura holds a Bachelors degree in Engineering from Harvard and has happily launched her three children.
Becki Lapotsky is currently the Graphic Designer and Social Media Guru at Autism Village. She worked in the financial industry with Topher Wurts while volunteering with AV for the past year. Becki graduated from Kutztown University with a degree in Communication Design. A key member of the AV production team, she is excited to contribute to this meaningful endeavor and looks forward to helping autism families everywhere.
Tracy Lee has been working with people who have autism for 14 years, both professionally and personally in NJ, PA, and FL. Her experience ranges from individual child support in the home to classroom teacher for self-contained classrooms, including various leadership positions within her work environments. She has been a classroom teacher as well as a therapist providing services to children and their families. She is currently pursuing her BCBA certification for Behavior Analysis.
Paul “Willis” Sherwood graduated from West Chester University as a communication major. Paul has worked in many and varied roles for the last 20 years directly supporting users of technology and Internet products and services. There’s no one who makes users feel more comfortable and who can help them to become more successful with an online service than Paul. His friends have a saying: “You’ve a problem? Just dial 1-800-Call-Willis!”
Eric Lint has been a Managing Director of Farm Creek Advisors since 2010. He is a trustee of Gettysburg College and has served as an executive and consultant to firms in multiple industries. He has a degree in Economics from Gettysburg College, an MBA from the University of Connecticut, and studied in Economics at a graduate level at New York University.
David Richards has worked with a range of mature and growth-oriented companies. David is currently the CEO of Concursive Inc., a technology company he founded in 2000 that focuses on social-business software and next-generation media ventures. David received his BA from Williams College and his MBA from the Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia.
Charles Henderson, friend of the Wurts family for nearly 30 years, musician and Macintosh specialist with wide ranging experience in network administration, audio/video production and editing, digital typesetting, desktop publishing, and database development. Charles worked with Becki to develop our social media presence and is now producing and maintaining the Autism Village marketing website.
Bill Doescher met Topher Wurts more than a dozen years ago on a start-up project, and they have been reunited to promote Autism Village. Working with Topher, Bill will handle projects involving, but not limited to, imaging, writing, public relations, and special fundraising. He is an award-winning PR person who has a B.A. from Colgate University and a M.S. from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
Clay Garfinkle graduated from The Johns Hopkins University with a B.Sc. in Computer Engineering, and a M.Sc. in Finance from the Carey Business School. Clay has pursued ventures across many sectors, including life sciences, digital media, and collaborative technologies. Clay's diverse experience across vastly different roles and industries lends itself to finding unprecedented solutions and discovering unique partnership opportunities.
Sterling Ivison, better known as Skip, comes to Autism Village with more than 25 years of pharmaceutical industry experience. He joined DuPont Pharmaceuticals in 1989 and was the site manager for DuPont’s Glenolden Laboratory. In 1997, Skip joined the newly-formed Endo Pharmaceuticals where he started the Human Resources Department and managed the corporation’s philanthropic donations. Skip graduated from Lafayette College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering.
Dan Hagee - With over 25 years of Information Management and process automation experience, Dan is experienced in developing and delivering business solutions in the Healthcare industry. Serving over 7 years in national security roles with the U.S. Marine Corps, NSA, and private security consulting for the US State Dept., and over 15 years with SMS/Siemens/Cerner and startup companies in Provider/Payer Healthcare Consulting, Home Healthcare, Health and Wellness and PPO Network Development; Dan grew up with 2 brothers who are autistic and has lived with the needs that Autism Village was formed to address.