Jaxson Barber

Two-year-old Jaxson Barber ran around the Maxwell Center chasing down colorful balls to toss into a laundry basket with several other children during New Independence Academy’s sixth annual Rockin’ AWEtism event. The live auction and car show had plenty of family friendly activities and was held to raise awareness about autism in Wayne County.

New Independence Academy hosted its sixth annual Rockin’ AWEtism live auction and car show at the Maxwell Center on Saturday afternoon in an effort to raise awareness of autism in Wayne County.

“This is our big event of the year to help raise funds for help operating the school,” said Patrick Bonnell, president of New Independence Academy. “Plus, it’s a good way to raise awareness of autism in Wayne County and let people know that we’re here and we’re available, if they have students in need.”

New Independence Academy is a school that provides education for children with high-functioning autism. Classes are held at Generation Church, located at 3016 Summit Road.

During the last six years, the academy has increased its attendance from 15 students to 40. The academy serves students from five different counties, including Wayne, Wilson, Lenoir, Green and Garner, Bonnell said.

“Six years ago, myself and four other parents got together and formed a board,” Bonnell said. “There’s a really great need for this type of school for children.

“A lot of times they don’t get the attention and care that they need in the public school system. We try to step in and fill that void.”

While the event is usually held at the school’s location, this year the car show and live auction were held at the Maxwell Center. Kelly Alves, director of New Independence Academy, said she hoped having the event in a central location would bring the event to more people’s attention.

“It’s always been community wide, but our goal having it here is that it would alert people more that it’s for everybody and not just for the school,” Alves said.

Plenty of kids found interesting games and activities, such as Connect fFour, a ball toss, checkers and bouncy houses while families perused the antique cars on display. Tables of goody baskets full of handmade and store-bought items were on display for silent and live auctions.

All proceeds raised during the live auction and silent auction go toward funding needs at New Independence Academy, Alves said. In 2018, New Independence Church raised nearly $14,000, which allowed the school to grow and move to a different location.

“This past year, we used (the proceeds) to move to a bigger building, but we also upgraded our technology infrastructure and were able to purchase iPads for every student in the building to use at school,” Alves said. “Of course, with new technology, we were able to upgrade curriculum.

“We’re not sure what this year’s (proceeds) will go toward, but it will be something along those lines.”

Jasmine Lilly, 2, and her mother, Cherish Lilly, played Connect Four on the floor during Rockin’ AWEtism. Cherish Lilly said she thought the event was for a great cause. Lilly and her family attended so they could support her husband, who entered the car show.

Two-year-old Jaxson Barber ran around the Maxwell Center chasing down colorful balls to toss into a laundry basket with several other children. His mother, Tonya Barber, said her family stopped by the Maxwell Center to relax and have fun after reading about it on Facebook.

“We have several friends who have children with autism, and we believe it’s a worthy cause, so we thought we’d check it out,” Barber said. “It’s a great event.

“I think it’s wonderful for the kids. Everybody seems to be having fun. Looks like there’s something for everybody.”