When they launched Ben's Fund in 2012, John and Traci Schneider had no idea how big their impact on families affected by autism would someday become.
On Thursday night, the work that John and Traci Schneider have done through Ben's Fund will be honored at the Seattle Sports Star of the Year Awards, where the couple will receive the Paul G. Allen award, which is given to someone who has made significant or compelling philanthropic contributions.
"Never did we think we would be able to raise as much money as we've raised and give away as much money as we have to families that are truly in need," Traci Schneider said last year at the annual Prime Time celebrity waiter event that raises money for Ben's Fund. "… It's really special to see the impact that we're making and to read about it, and to see these kids grow and be everything they can be."
Through their annual Prime Time dinners and other fundraising efforts, the Schneiders have raised $4.5 million for Ben's Fund, their non-profit that is named for their oldest son, Ben, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. That money has allowed Ben's Fund to award more than 2,000 grants to families affected by autism.
Those grants help cover the costs associated with medical bills, therapies and numerous other aspects of supporting a child on the autism spectrum. Ben's Fund, in partnership with Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT), strives to not only provide financial assistance through grants, but also, according to the Ben's Fund website, "to drive families to FEAT so they will be connected to a larger community to receive ongoing guidance and assistance as they continue their journey with autism."
"The awareness is a big thing, and hopefully that awareness stems into understanding as well, so when you're out, you don't get those looks from people," Traci said in 2016. "And that awareness is also important so families can feel like they're not alone, because when you're going through this, especially in the early years, you feel like you're all alone. Nobody really understands what you're going through except other parents with kids on the spectrum.
"After Ben got diagnosed, and as we went along the journey of trying to help him, we really saw what it entails for families, and how much of an impact that has not just on the child who has autism, but the entire family unit—the parents, the other siblings, every dynamic of your day-to-day life. It affects everything."
Also up for awards Thursday night are Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, who is nominated for Male Sports Star of the Year, and the Seahawks as a team, who are up for Sports Story of the Year for their 2019 season and playoff run. Seahawks players took home Male Sports Star honors for five straight years from 2012-16 with Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner winning the award.
For the eighth consecutive year, Seahawks general manager and his wife Traci, along with Seahawks players, coaches, and staff, put on a celebrity waiter event to support Ben's Fund, which provides grants to families impacted by autism.