By Keysha Drexel
A Hoover resident is one of three finalists for a national community service award.
Bill Pearson, a member and past president of the Autism Society of Alabama board of directors, has been announced as a finalist in the eighth annual Invest in Others Community Leadership Awards in the Community Service Award category.
Pearson and the other finalists will be honored at the Invest in Others Community Leadership Awards dinner in New York City Sept. 18.
The Invest in Others Charitable Foundation established the Community Leadership Awards to support the philanthropic and volunteer activities of financial advisors. Financial advisors from across the nation are nominated by their peers for exemplifying outstanding leadership qualities in the industry and actively volunteering to improve their communities and make a difference in the lives of others.
There are five award categories: Catalyst Award, Community Service Award, Global Community Impact Award, Volunteer of the Year Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hundreds of nominations for the Community Leadership Awards are received each year and reviewed by a diverse panel of leaders in the financial services industry. Pearson and the other finalists were selected based on their levels of involvement, contributions and impact of their efforts.
Pearson, who has lived in Hoover for 36 years, is a senior vice president financial advisor at Morgan Stanley.
He has been an active member of the Autism Society of Alabama’s board of directors since 2008 and its past president.
Pearson’s journey as an Autism Spectrum Disorder advocate began in 2002 with the diagnosis of his oldest grandson. His grandson is now 14 years old and lives in the Birmingham area.
“Soon after my grandson was diagnosed with autism, a good friend, a mother who had experienced a similar event, described what my daughter could expect. ‘She will wake up every morning with a knot in her stomach,’ my friend said to me,” Pearson said.
That knot occurs, Pearson said, because often parents of children with autism feel alone and don’t know where to turn to help.
“I have been sent an (Autism Society of Alabama) testimonial from a parent who described the day of her son’s diagnosis by writing, ‘I promise you, the most alone I have ever felt was the day he was diagnosed. I had no idea what to do, where to get him help, what autism was…it was like getting kicked off a cliff,'” Pearson said. “The experiences I recount here have been repeated across Alabama thousands of times by mothers, fathers, grandfathers and siblings of children with ASD.”
Pearson has “truly made in difference” in making sure children with ASD and their families have the resources they need, said Melanie Jones, executive director of the Autism Society of Alabama in a letter nominating Pearson for the community involvement award.
“I have known Bill for over 10 years and always look to him as a leader and advocate for individuals affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders,” Jones said.
As the ASA board president, Pearson was instrumental in the implementation of the Autism Awareness car tag program, Jones said.
“This involved many hours of planning to ensure the state of Alabama’s requirements were met,” she said. “Whether this meant spending a Friday night at a high school football game or a Sunday at a local grocer to encourage car tag signups, Bill was there.”
Pearson has also worked with the ASA’s staff, board members and advocates to secure legislation improving private insurance coverage for Autism Spectrum therapies. He was an advocate of the passing of the Riley Ward Autism Insurance Act of 2012, which is aimed at improving insurance coverage and reducing the financial burden of the Alabama families affected by autism, Jones said.
“Many citizens are not aware that therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder are not covered by insurance, leading to financial hardship for tens of thousands of Alabama families,” she said.
Pearson was also instrumental in helping establish a six-bedroom residential facility called the Bluff Park Promise Home in Hoover for adults with autism, said Darby Henley, executive director, Alabama Complex at Morgan Stanley, in a letter nominating Pearson for the community involvement award.
The Bluff Park Promise Home was established by the Bluff Park United Methodist Community Ministries Foundation along with other local churches and organizations. The home is managed by Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Health Center.
“One of the most challenging aspects of the autism epidemic is the increased need for housing for adults who need support to live life to their potential,” Henley said. “There is evidence that the Promise Home could be a state and national model of meeting increasing adult housing needs.”
Pearson and his family attend Bluff Park United Methodist Church. He is on the board of directors at Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Center.
Each year, Pearson organizes the Morgan Stanley Walk for Autism team at the Autism Society of Alabama’s fundraising walks.
Earlier this year, Pearson received the Commitment to Autism Research, Education and Service, or CARES Award at the annual Alabama Autism Conference.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Bill and the leadership he provides in impacting people’s lives across Alabama through his efforts for the Autism Society of Alabama,” Henley said.
Following the awards dinner in September in New York, Pearson and other finalists will visit the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York City’s Time Square where Bill Dwyer, chairman of the board of Invest in Others, will ring the bell to open the Sept. 19 trading day.
Autism Shines Gala
Aug. 23, 6-10 p.m.
Ross Bridge Resort
The Autism Society of Alabama will host its signature fundraising event, the Autism Shines Gala, from 6-10 p.m. Aug. 23 at Ross Bridge Resort. The gala will support the mission of the organization to improve services to individuals with ASD through education and advocacy. The event includes complimentary drinks, a seated dinner and live and silent auctions. Emcees will be representatives from the WJOX Roundtable. Tickets are $65. Ross Bridge Resort is at 4000 Grand Ave. in Hoover. For more information, visit www.autismshinesgala.com, email email@example.com or call 951-1364.