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Steveston herring sale to support autism

By Don Fennell

Published 12:08 PST, Wed January 8, 2020

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

A staple food since early times is now helping to support autism.

On Jan. 11, fishers will gather on the shores of Garry Point Park to sell their catch of herring. The proceeds will go to ACT, an acronym for the group Autism Community Training.

Thanks to the sponsorship and generosity of Oceanside Fisheries, the special sale from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. will see herring made available to the public at 10 pounds for $12 or 20 pounds for $20. Last January, more than 20,000 pounds of herring was sold.

“Fingers crossed, the weather will be good this year and it will be a very exciting, fun day,” says Debra Pugh, executive director of ACT.

Pugh says support for the herring sale for autism was impressive in each of the event’s first two years, adding that it’s always fascinating how people from various cultures prepare herring dishes—from being eaten raw to cured and smoked as kippers.

“It’s a great source of high-quality protein, very high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D,” she says.

Thanks to the support of groups such as Oceanside, the plight of individuals and families living with autism is being further recognized. And at ACT, the goal is to provide training and information for families across the province.

“The challenge for our organization is building our resources so families are not so vulnerable,” says Pugh. “(Autism) is a very complex condition that if it isn’t treated properly the outcomes can be quite miserable. But with proper support, kids can do so well.”

Steveston’s fishing industry is renowned for its generous support for those with special needs in the province, but Oceanside Fisheries owners Mike Rekis and Anne McCaw have a special tie to the autism community. “Our daughter is a very able adult now, but we haven’t forgotten how important ACT is to the success of children and adults with autism. We are supporting ACT because our family believes that the next generation of B.C. children deserves to have access to ACT’s impartial information and training resources,” explains Anne McCaw, a former ACT board member. 

“Three years ago, my husband and I chose to support ACT in another way, as donors, by organizing an annual herring sale through our company, Oceanside Fisheries, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to ACT. The success of this event grew dramatically in year two, and we look forward to continuing this fundraising effort. It is only a small contribution to the overall operation of maintaining ACT’s online resources, but we feel good about doing our part in helping others access help like we have had for our daughter,” says McCaw.

A not-for-profit society that provides the international autism community with free online information and training resources, ACT also hosts live events some of which are web streamed Vancouver base. It gathers reliable resources on autism and other special needs from websites internationally, in multiple languages, and makes them available in a keyword search database.

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