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Stables concert set to rock autism

A little more than four years ago, Linda Cain and her son Jacob Gavin, who is autistic, were riding home to Glen Burnie on a bus when Linda noticed that everyone else on the bus was ignoring and avoiding him. When they got home, Jacob asked her if he was invisible.

Jacob is not invisible and neither are the estimated 2 million other people living with autism in the U.S. so Cain decided she was going to do whatever she could to make sure autistic children didn't feel as if they were not noticed. A promoter and booking agent for musicians, Cain founded Music Rocks Autism and began holding daylong concert events to raise money for autism advocacy organizations such as Autism Speaks.

"I started Music Rocks Autism to spread autism awareness and acceptance and also to provide a safe place where all the autistic families can go and not be judged," Cain said. "We do that through music, so everybody can have a really good time. My son loves music ... it's a universal language as they say."

On May 24, Music Rocks Autism will come to The Stables at Westminster for 12 hours of music, raffles and information about autism.

"I've very excited. I have never been to the Stables before," Cain said. "I have had shows in California, West Virginia, New York and New Jersey ... this is my first concert in Westminster."

The event begins at noon with The Rivers Bend Band and will continue with sets from 20 more bands and acoustic musicians, including Crystal Sands, The Kane Gang and Life Denied, who will close the show at midnight.

"How I usually set it up, is each band plays for 40 minutes, then there is a 20-minute set by an acoustic person outside, while the next band is getting ready," Cain said. "In between [sets] ... there is a raffle and we'll do that before [the next] band starts."

Tickets will be $10 either at the door or in advance at The Stables at Westminster, with all proceeds going to Autism Speaks, a nonprofit autism advocacy organization.

The Stables at Westminster became the host for the event after Cain contacted co-owner Tina Stamidis, who said she agreed because she understands what Cain is trying to do and because autism has touched her family too.

"I do have a nephew, he is 7 years old, and he is autistic," Stamidis said. "However,we can help to get the awareness out and get all the funds we need to educate people and whatever the kids need. The kids are there. They do need help."

One of the aims of Music Rocks Autism events, according to Cain, is to help habituate those who are not familiar with autism to the behavioral differences of autistic persons to prevent the sort of turning away that Jacob experienced on the bus four years ago. Lisa Bello, of Frederick, is the mother of three boys with autism and has seen this take place firsthand.

"When [my sons] were younger and you took them to restaurants or public places, people didn't understand them or know how to interact with them," Bello said. "The children with autism at these shows interact with people and [the children] learn how to interact in the community in an appropriate way in a place where people have patience."

Bello's youngest son Brian has also performed at Music Rocks Autism events, as have other autistic musicians and Bello said a real community has grown up around these events: a place where families with autistic children and the community can come together to learn from and support each other.

"It's almost like a little family. ... These are people that accept me and my children and their unique differences," she said. "I just enjoy it because I see so many people that actually care."

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