Gala boosts families living with autism

Community Apr 13, 2016 by Julia Lovett-Squires Flamborough Review

What started out as a way to help a young boy with autism cope with being outside his comfort zone quickly became the inspiration for a charity to help families in southwestern Ontario.

The foundation, Unmask the Mystery, will hold a Masquerade Gala on Fri., April 15 at the Dundas Valley Golf and Curling Club to raise funds to support families affected by the disorder.

“We couldn’t take him to the grocery store . . . there was screaming just to get him anywhere so we came up with the idea of a superhero mask and putting it on and then only people he wanted to see could see him,” Jessica Demko said, referring to her eight-year-old son, Spencer.

Much like the mask the little boy used in the movie Jerry Maguire to be invisible, the mask Spencer used gave him a sense of security and created his own little world where he didn’t feel exposed or anxious.

“Tom Cruise came to save the day,” Demko said.

While her son, who was diagnosed at age four, no longer needs the mask since through therapy he has learned to deal with stress in more tangible ways, it gave them the idea for the name of the new foundation.

“For a disease to affect one in every 68 children and still have so much unknown about it, what causes it, what makes it better, what makes it worse, there’s still so much mystery around it, so it all fit in pretty perfectly,” Demko said.

This is the third dinner fundraiser the group has hosted, with previous donations going to Autism Speaks Canada. This time, the funds from the event will be going to the year-old not-for-profit.

Demko said she and her family first saw signs when Spencer was 18 months old and it was a difficult process to go through.

“He started losing language, he didn’t really interact at all, the constant screaming, the no sleeping,” she said.

Following Spencer’s diagnosis the family started the waiting process. After talking with her pediatrician, Demko found that there was an alternative: early intervention therapy.

“We went to a private clinic and self-funded the diagnosis and so we got a diagnosis quickly because of that,” she said, noting that if they had waited, it would have taken close to two years.

Through individual education plans and certain allowances that are in place, Spencer is able to attends a regular school and speaks and interacts with other students.

“Those are all things I didn’t think he would be able to do,” said Demko.

“Early intervention is definitely something that I believe in. I think my kid’s proof of it and so that’s why we want the money to go to help more families get that early intervention for their kids,” she added.

Demko said she felt blessed that with the help of family and income, they were able to fund Spencer’s therapy. The first year of treatment, including speech and occupational therapy, cost $30,000.

That experience was the reason why the charity was founded. With the help of the masquerade gala, they hope that they will be able to start funding families by the end of the year.

“We wanted to focus on low to moderate income (families) that may think that it’s never ever going to happen to them because you have to have money in order to do it,” she said.

“Autism doesn’t discriminate as far as what someone’s annual household income is,” added Demko, noting that through the regular provincial process, not every family would be helped and this was an area on which she and her organization could focus.

In true masquerade fashion, the gala will be a semi-formal to formal event. Tickets are $85 each.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., with dinner beginning at 7 p.m., after which a raffle will take place.

Demko said they hope to raise $20,000 so they can start funding families as soon as they can, so they can have special moments with their children.

“We want to make sure more families get to hear the words ‘I love you,’” she said.

For more information or to by tickets, visit to unmaskthemystery.com.

Gala boosts families living with autism

Community Apr 13, 2016 by Julia Lovett-Squires Flamborough Review

What started out as a way to help a young boy with autism cope with being outside his comfort zone quickly became the inspiration for a charity to help families in southwestern Ontario.

The foundation, Unmask the Mystery, will hold a Masquerade Gala on Fri., April 15 at the Dundas Valley Golf and Curling Club to raise funds to support families affected by the disorder.

“We couldn’t take him to the grocery store . . . there was screaming just to get him anywhere so we came up with the idea of a superhero mask and putting it on and then only people he wanted to see could see him,” Jessica Demko said, referring to her eight-year-old son, Spencer.

Much like the mask the little boy used in the movie Jerry Maguire to be invisible, the mask Spencer used gave him a sense of security and created his own little world where he didn’t feel exposed or anxious.

“Tom Cruise came to save the day,” Demko said.

While her son, who was diagnosed at age four, no longer needs the mask since through therapy he has learned to deal with stress in more tangible ways, it gave them the idea for the name of the new foundation.

“For a disease to affect one in every 68 children and still have so much unknown about it, what causes it, what makes it better, what makes it worse, there’s still so much mystery around it, so it all fit in pretty perfectly,” Demko said.

This is the third dinner fundraiser the group has hosted, with previous donations going to Autism Speaks Canada. This time, the funds from the event will be going to the year-old not-for-profit.

Demko said she and her family first saw signs when Spencer was 18 months old and it was a difficult process to go through.

“He started losing language, he didn’t really interact at all, the constant screaming, the no sleeping,” she said.

Following Spencer’s diagnosis the family started the waiting process. After talking with her pediatrician, Demko found that there was an alternative: early intervention therapy.

“We went to a private clinic and self-funded the diagnosis and so we got a diagnosis quickly because of that,” she said, noting that if they had waited, it would have taken close to two years.

Through individual education plans and certain allowances that are in place, Spencer is able to attends a regular school and speaks and interacts with other students.

“Those are all things I didn’t think he would be able to do,” said Demko.

“Early intervention is definitely something that I believe in. I think my kid’s proof of it and so that’s why we want the money to go to help more families get that early intervention for their kids,” she added.

Demko said she felt blessed that with the help of family and income, they were able to fund Spencer’s therapy. The first year of treatment, including speech and occupational therapy, cost $30,000.

That experience was the reason why the charity was founded. With the help of the masquerade gala, they hope that they will be able to start funding families by the end of the year.

“We wanted to focus on low to moderate income (families) that may think that it’s never ever going to happen to them because you have to have money in order to do it,” she said.

“Autism doesn’t discriminate as far as what someone’s annual household income is,” added Demko, noting that through the regular provincial process, not every family would be helped and this was an area on which she and her organization could focus.

In true masquerade fashion, the gala will be a semi-formal to formal event. Tickets are $85 each.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., with dinner beginning at 7 p.m., after which a raffle will take place.

Demko said they hope to raise $20,000 so they can start funding families as soon as they can, so they can have special moments with their children.

“We want to make sure more families get to hear the words ‘I love you,’” she said.

For more information or to by tickets, visit to unmaskthemystery.com.

Gala boosts families living with autism

Community Apr 13, 2016 by Julia Lovett-Squires Flamborough Review

What started out as a way to help a young boy with autism cope with being outside his comfort zone quickly became the inspiration for a charity to help families in southwestern Ontario.

The foundation, Unmask the Mystery, will hold a Masquerade Gala on Fri., April 15 at the Dundas Valley Golf and Curling Club to raise funds to support families affected by the disorder.

“We couldn’t take him to the grocery store . . . there was screaming just to get him anywhere so we came up with the idea of a superhero mask and putting it on and then only people he wanted to see could see him,” Jessica Demko said, referring to her eight-year-old son, Spencer.

Much like the mask the little boy used in the movie Jerry Maguire to be invisible, the mask Spencer used gave him a sense of security and created his own little world where he didn’t feel exposed or anxious.

“Tom Cruise came to save the day,” Demko said.

While her son, who was diagnosed at age four, no longer needs the mask since through therapy he has learned to deal with stress in more tangible ways, it gave them the idea for the name of the new foundation.

“For a disease to affect one in every 68 children and still have so much unknown about it, what causes it, what makes it better, what makes it worse, there’s still so much mystery around it, so it all fit in pretty perfectly,” Demko said.

This is the third dinner fundraiser the group has hosted, with previous donations going to Autism Speaks Canada. This time, the funds from the event will be going to the year-old not-for-profit.

Demko said she and her family first saw signs when Spencer was 18 months old and it was a difficult process to go through.

“He started losing language, he didn’t really interact at all, the constant screaming, the no sleeping,” she said.

Following Spencer’s diagnosis the family started the waiting process. After talking with her pediatrician, Demko found that there was an alternative: early intervention therapy.

“We went to a private clinic and self-funded the diagnosis and so we got a diagnosis quickly because of that,” she said, noting that if they had waited, it would have taken close to two years.

Through individual education plans and certain allowances that are in place, Spencer is able to attends a regular school and speaks and interacts with other students.

“Those are all things I didn’t think he would be able to do,” said Demko.

“Early intervention is definitely something that I believe in. I think my kid’s proof of it and so that’s why we want the money to go to help more families get that early intervention for their kids,” she added.

Demko said she felt blessed that with the help of family and income, they were able to fund Spencer’s therapy. The first year of treatment, including speech and occupational therapy, cost $30,000.

That experience was the reason why the charity was founded. With the help of the masquerade gala, they hope that they will be able to start funding families by the end of the year.

“We wanted to focus on low to moderate income (families) that may think that it’s never ever going to happen to them because you have to have money in order to do it,” she said.

“Autism doesn’t discriminate as far as what someone’s annual household income is,” added Demko, noting that through the regular provincial process, not every family would be helped and this was an area on which she and her organization could focus.

In true masquerade fashion, the gala will be a semi-formal to formal event. Tickets are $85 each.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., with dinner beginning at 7 p.m., after which a raffle will take place.

Demko said they hope to raise $20,000 so they can start funding families as soon as they can, so they can have special moments with their children.

“We want to make sure more families get to hear the words ‘I love you,’” she said.

For more information or to by tickets, visit to unmaskthemystery.com.