What began as a simple garage sale organized by Shaelynne Bush, has now turned into an annual community-wide initiative called The Bush Bunch, to raise money for Autism Ontario Peel Chapter and Autism Speaks. This year, the Bush Bunch ran its 10th and final year, raising $51,615 which brings their overall total to $125,615 in the past 10 years.
The Bush Bunch was originally spearheaded by Shaelynne, former Port Credit Secondary School student and current supply teaching assistant with the Peel District School Board but the rest of her family soon joined in. The Bush family consists of Murray and Jeannine, parents of Shaelynne, and her siblings, Colleen, Griffin and Emerson.
Their story began when two of their children were diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Griffin has multiple diagnoses, including autism, developmental delay and a rare genetic anomaly. Emerson is diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Giving back to the community and sharing their knowledge and experience with autism has become a major part of their life as a family.
The garage sale began with selling items donated by family and friends. In their first year, they raised $2,000. As the years progressed, the family reached out to their local community by hand delivering over 5,000 flyers each year to promote their garage sale. The family even reached out to local community businesses who generously donated items, gift certificates, baked homemade cookies to sell, a tent to use for their garage sale and more.
Beyond raising money for local autism charities, they are most proud of the community connections with families who have been touched by autism. Through this initiative, they are able to provide other families with support, resources and share their personal experiences. Through their efforts, the Bush family has provided funding for over 100 children living with autism and their families to attend a weekend camp. This year, the money raised will support an additional three years of funding and continue to support research.
The Bush Bunch has received community-wide support from neighbours, family, friends, community, Peel board staff and schools, including Countryside Village, Fairlawn, Tecumseh, Treeline and Silverthorn public schools, and Sandalwood Heights Secondary School.
The Bush family's dream of making a difference has brought their community together, provided support to numerous families and created a greater awareness of autism within their community.
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