A year ago the Astoria-based autism support organization QSAC lost one of its most devoted employees when a gunman killed Anita Smith, along with four co-workers, in the Flushing Wendys massacre.
Smiths colleagues at QSAC immediately sought to transform their grief into something worthy of her legacy.
They created the Anita Smith Memorial Scholarship, a $1,000 grant they award annually to a New York City college student who, like Smith did, works with the autistic.
Autism is a mental condition characterized by repetitive behavior, language dysfunction and the inability to interact socially.
Smith, a 22-year-old resident of South Jamaica, had embarked on a career in social work, serving as a therapy assistant for children in a QSAC program at PS 177 in Flushing.
Although she had not yet entered college at the time of her death, she had planned to enroll at York College in the fall. Her mother, Joan Truman-Smith, was also a QSAC employee when her died and continues to work there.
The scholarship will be awarded Thursday at a Jackson Heights dinner dance and silent auction intended to raise at least $50,000 for the organization, the first such event for QSAC in its 13-year history.
Organizers expect to earn the most money through the silent auction that will feature more than 400 items, including autographed memorabilia from The Sopranos, a Mary Tyler Moore script, tickets to Riverdance and luxury hotel accommodations.
The first scholarship was presented last year to Anthony Milan, and QSAC plans to award future scholarships around the anniversary date of Smiths death.
QSAC offers services to people with autism and their families from the city and Long Island, helping their clients reach their potential and lead productive lives.
We have very long waiting lists, said QSAC spokesman Gary Maffei. There are numbers of people that we cant serve because theres not enough government funding.
QSAC currently serves about 600 individuals.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2001 Community News Group
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