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Shaun Cusson gave a short speech to kick off the monthlong event.

Hillcrest Lights Up Park Square to Spread Autism Awarenes

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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A resource fair was held at Downtown Pittsfield Inc. prior to the lighting ceremony.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The downtown corridor will be lit up blue this month to raise awareness of autism.
 
Blue lights have been placed in Park Square, at City Hall, and in windows of various businesses on North Street in part of the Hillcrest Educational Foundation's Light It Up Blue campaign.
 
This is the second year for the event and the program has grown to include a resource fair, connecting parents of autistic children with resources. 
 
"Last year, we did this just at Hillcrest and, this year, we wanted to make a bigger impact," said Hillcrest Director of Communications Katrina Cardillo. "We knew there were others who provides resources to the community so we wanted to make sure we viewed together."
 
Joining the effort this year are Community Resources for People with Autism, UCP of Berkshire County, College Internship Program, and Ad Lib, all which provide resources for autistic children and adults. Those organizations joined together in Downtown Pittsfield Inc.'s offices Friday evening to share information.
 
"We just want everybody in the community to know there are resources," Cardillo said. "There are others in the community who don't understand autism."
 
Following the fair, the groups gathered at Park Square for a lighting ceremony. However, the blue film on the lights weren't working properly so the lighting up ceremony was more symbolic.
 
Those lights will be fixed, according to Hillcrest Executive Director Shaun Cusson, and flood lights will keep the city's center lit up all month, reminding people in the community both "what autism is, and what it isn't." Cardillo said Hillcrest's main office and the Housatonic Academy will also feature lights.
 
"Awareness is absolutely critical. We have to spread the word," Cusson said during a brief speaking portion at Park Square in windy and rainy weather. "That awareness shapes understanding, understanding shapes policy and funding."
 
Part of the effort is to de-stigmatize autism. The local effort builds on the autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks' worldwide effort. Other international landmarks being lit up this month include the Rockefeller Center in New York, the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, Shanghai Tower in China, the Sydney Operate House and others. More than 11,000 buildings will be lit up.
 
Locally last year, the blue lights were only at City Hall and Park Square. This year, Hillcrest enlisted the help of Downtown Pittsfield Inc. to spread the lights to businesses downtown. Lampposts, spotlights, and small blue lights will be lit up throughout the downtown, including at iBerkshires' offices on North Street.
 
"Typically during holidays we encourage businesses to decorate the windows with lights so we tapped into that," Downtown Pittsfield Executive Director Kristine Hurley said. 
 
Limelight Productions is lighting up Park Square with flood lights. 
 
Cusson said he envisions the awareness effort growing in coming years. 

Tags: autism,   awareness event,   hillcrest educational,   North Street,   

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Environment Secretary Visits Pittsfield


Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of energy and environmental affairs, visits the site of culvert project in Pittsfield being funded through the state's climate readiness program.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides was in Pittsfield on Friday to review a state-funded culvert site and meet with local officials to discuss the state's climate readiness program. 
 
She joined Mayor Linda Tyer at the Churchill Street culvert, a site which recently received grant funding through the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. The city was awarded an $814,524 state grant in June for the Churchill Brook and West Street Culvert Replacement Project.
 
Through the MVP program, which begun in 2017, municipalities identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths, develop adaptation actions, and prioritize next steps. The initiative which initially started as a $500,000 capital grant program has now increased to $12 million. Pittsfield is among the 71 percent of communities across the commonwealth now enrolled in the MVP program.
 
"The governor and the lieutenant governor have made resilient infrastructure a priority all across the state and I think it's really important to know that we have a really vested interest in Western Massachusetts communities as well as all across the state, not forgetting the Berkshires or Pioneer Valley," said Theoharides in a statement. "Our MVP program is really focused on these types of partnership investments and looking to design infrastructure for the challenges we're seeing today and moving forward as climate change increases."
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