Treasured memories are often created on family vacations. For some families with a child affected by autism, taking a vacation, especially if it means traveling by air, is not always possible due to the fear of the response it could elicit from their child. The large crowds, loud noises and communication difficulties make air travel challenging.
Wishes by Wyndham, the philanthropic foundation of Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE: WYN), one of the world's largest hospitality companies, is giving children with autism and their families the opportunity to become comfortable with air travel in a low-pressure environment by supporting Autism Speaks, one of the world's leading autism science and advocacy organizations, and its Blue Horizons for Autism program.
"As a hospitality and leisure-based company, we are committed to helping our customers make great memories at exciting and wonderful destinations around the world," said Stephen P. Holmes, chairman and chief executive officer, Wyndham Worldwide. "We are proud to be a part of such an impactful program that opens up the world to great vacations and traveling by airplane to those that would not otherwise feel comfortable doing so."
The program gives families in the autism community a chance to practice the full airport and airplane experience in a real-life setting, surrounded by other families affected by autism. At the event, families check-in, walk through security and board the plane at the gate. The plane then pulls away from the gate and back into a neighboring gate so participants are able to experience the plane in motion. The importance of providing not only training and support to the person with autism and their families, but also to airport, airline and TSA personnel is crucial to facilitate a better experience for all.
Pavan Mehta understands firsthand the difficulty of traveling with children with autism. The father of five, two of whom have been diagnosed with autism, appreciates Wyndham Worldwide's support of the initiative because it can unlock the potential for his family and others like them who wish to travel.
"Air travel can be difficult for many people with autism, their families and even for airport personnel supporting these passengers," Mehta said. "Wyndham Worldwide is helping families experience the joy of taking a vacation together while also educating those not directly affected by autism how to better accommodate our community."
Believing that you can do well by doing good, Wishes by Wyndham supports its philanthropic goals through in-kind donations, volunteer hours and by raising awareness and funds for organizations related to its mission. The global philanthropic foundation of Wyndham Worldwide, Wishes by Wyndham is committed to enriching the lives of children around the world.
"Wyndham Worldwide is a family-oriented company, and we understand how important vacations are for families, so they can relax, spend quality time and have fun together," said Mary Falvey, executive vice president and chief human resources officer, Wyndham Worldwide. "Without this program, many in the autism community would never experience the joy of taking a family vacation. We are thrilled to partner with Autism Speaks to provide this opportunity to families affected by autism."
In 2012, Wishes by Wyndham made a $50,000 donation to Autism Speaks to fund free iPads for disadvantaged families who have children with autism. The gift enabled Autism Speaks to secure additional support from other organizations, which together created a combined $75,000 grant. More than 170 families from across the country received iPads.
About Wyndham Worldwide
One of the world's largest hospitality companies, Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE: WYN) provides a wide range of hospitality products and services through its global portfolio of world-renowned brands. The world's largest hotel company based on the number of properties, Wyndham Hotel Group is home to many of the world's best-known hotel brands, with over 7,410 franchised hotels and over 635,100 hotel rooms worldwide. Wyndham Exchange & Rentals is the worldwide leader in vacation exchange and the world's largest professionally managed vacation rentals business, providing more than 5 million leisure-bound families annually with access to over 106,000 vacation properties in 100 countries through its prominent exchange and vacation rental brands. The industry and timeshare ownership market leader, Wyndham Vacation Ownership develops, markets, and sells vacation ownership interests and provides consumer financing to owners through its network of 190 vacation ownership resorts serving approximately 915,000 owners throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. Based in Parsippany, N.J., Wyndham Worldwide employs approximately 32,500 associates globally.
For more information, please visit www.wyndhamworldwide.com.
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