A local organization is making a big difference in bringing awareness and education to the autism spectrum.  Threes Pieces, an autism awareness group based in Fairbury, will be holding a gala March 30 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. The event is held each year to help bring awareness to the public about autism, and let children, on the spectrum or otherwise, cut loose and have some fun. 
  Two members of the organization, Vicki Check and Tim Linscott, sat down with Fairbury Journal-News for an in-depth look at how they hope their group can impact their local community.
“Threes Pieces was originally formed by a group of people that either were parents or grandparents of children that were on the spectrum and we wanted to raise funds in order to benefit the schools," Check said.   "Our goal was to help the children on the autism spectrum or any child that may need a little extra help."
Each year the group puts on an event that includes entertainment and other activities for children and adults.  All proceeds then go toward the schools for equipment or other expenses. 
“The schools set up a sensory room for the students' use," Check said.   "You might have an autistic child who is very capable of  learning but has to move and release some energy now and then thru the day.   We are trying to help provide the equipment needed for such a room."
Examples of items a sensory room may include are wobble chairs for a child that may need to move or rock, rebounders or even large scale fidget devices. 
“Once they have a release of this energy then they may be able to continue with the learning process,” Check said.  "They can learn but sometimes you have to supply the school with the equipment that will make that a little easier for the children and the staff.”
She went on to say that each student is different so they ask the school staff to let Threes Pieces know what would be needed to help the children learn. The schools in turn inform the group on what type of equipment would be on a wish list for them to purchase.
“The high school is going through that remodeling process where they’re going to redo some of the classrooms,” Linscott said. “As  part of that process  they are going to change some of the special education area in order to have a sensory room for kids on the spectrum.  There’s some students at the high school now and there’s many more coming up through junior high and upper elementary in the next few years. We want to help prepare them.”
According to Check, Threes Pieces has provided equipment for the lower grades over the past few years, but has not yet at the high school level. She expressed that they want to make sure the high school has the needed equipment for their new sensory room. As the group raises the funds, Check says that they will be contacting the school to fulfill the list of furniture that they have recommended for the Jr. High/High School students.
Recently, the group received a grant from Norris Public Power to specifically help with the needs in the high school. According to Linscott, one piece of equipment could cost as much as $5,000.
“Anything we can give, we’ll give,” Linscott said. “So, the wish list is pretty substantial to set up a needed sensory room."
To help with the funds and costs the group puts on a gala each year that is both kid and adult friendly. This year, the seventh annual Light It Up Blue gala will be held on March 30 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
Each year the gala is accompanied by a raffle auction that features items and baskets donated from businesses and individuals. No bidding is involved, but tickets are purchased and placed in a box in front of the basket  a person has an interest  in.  The winners are drawn later in the evening.
“We’ve expanded that this year,” Check said. "Now part of the items are being offered online now thru March 31. One of the items donated is a custom painted KC Royals' batting helmet created and donated by local artist Noah Ennis owner of Shell Shock Designs. My son-in-law is an amazing artist who custom paints NASCAR helmets and also goalie masks for the NHL.  The helmet and a KC tumbler will both be signed by Alex Gordon of the Royals and will be a great keepsake for any Royals fan."  
More art items are being submitted and with the new Threes Pieces website (www.threespieces.com) that was recently launched, certain items will be available to be viewed. Check claimed the more people who are willing to get  involved with donating items the better. With the expansion to include more art pieces she specifically would appreciate local artists that would be willing to part with their creations.  
  "We have quite a few online now and more to come," Check said. "They are not all art items, one is a very generous donation from a spa in Crete, Born Again Skin. We have some young people who have really stepped up and provided us with some great pieces, including Fairbury artist Jasmine Schwisow. Each year we are so grateful for the generosity of businesses and individuals who help make our fundraiser a successful event time after time. Fairbury and the surrounding communities have never once let us down on donating items for the baskets and the auction. The community is very generous which allows us to help the children on the autism spectrum."  
The new website has several pages of resources and information about the group and the awareness they are spreading about autism. Additionally, the site has stories and even a mini-series created and written by a local child that is on the autism spectrum.
Looking to the future, the group is focused on spreading awareness and reaching out to families with the ultimate goal of educating the public about the spectrum. The group is preparing for a special evening in January 2020 called the “Night of Champions.”
To learn more about Threes Pieces, get involved or to donate, the group can be reached through their website at www.threespieces.com.   
The Threes Pieces Gala on March 30 will begin at 6 p.m. and will feature a cake walk, cake decorating contest, live auction items and a performance from The String Beans.