What do an adult comedian and a 16-year-old scarf making queen have in common?
Joking aside, when you meet Adam Schwartz and Sarah Erenberg you’ll see that both can wrap you in warmth; one will warm your heart with the gift of laughter and the other will wrap your soul in a cuddly and creative scarf.
This dynamic duo both live with a diagnosis within the spectrum of autism. Both have giant hearts, and both are actively promoting autism awareness by giving back in their own unique ways to individuals with autism and to autism services in Manitoba.
Sarah has been making her Heartistic Creations scarves with me (her mom) for two years, and has been giving a portion of her sales back to OHEYS (Optimal Health and Early Years Sports Club) autism programs in Winnipeg. In fact, it was the potential closing of her favourite OHEYS program, Games Club, that moved Sarah into making some money from her scarf creations and donating back to OHEYS.
“Well I got started selling my scarves because my favorite autism group, Games Club – where I met lots of friends and played board games – was going to close because there wasn’t enough money to run it,” explains Sarah. “So, Mom and I had already made a few of these scarves together as gifts and I said let’s make more, sell them and make money for the Games Club so we can all go back, play games and have fun there,” she says.
“We sold over 100 scarves in three months and the Games Club opened up again with the help of my big cheque. I’m actually in three OHEYS groups just so you know but Games Club was my favourite one,” adds Sarah.
Just three months of scarf sales, through email and word of mouth, made it possible for Sarah to present a cheque for over $500 to Bennetta Benson, convenor of OHEYS programs.
Sarah’s favorite selling pitch: “Just so you know, I’m a scarf maker now but I’m going to be a reporter later, but you can buy a scarf anyhow to keep you warm and so we can all go back to Games Club.”
By the spring, after selling 128 scarves, her favourite OHEYS autism program was up and running again, and her scarves were adorning the snowy streets of Winnipeg in all the colours of a rainbow.
So how does this scarf queen connect with comedian Adam Schwartz?
Schwartz was on his own quest to give back to autism. His breakthrough as a comedian came when he garnered rave reviews for his show, “Aspergers: A Tale of a Social Misfit” at the 2013 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Since then, he has forged his way through the world of comedy.
Now, Schwartz is preparing an evening of comedy later this month called, “Awareness Through the Auts” featuring his own work, and that of five other comedians.
All profit from this show will go to Autistic Productions (which is part of Asperger Manitoba Inc.), that is creating business grants for artists on the spectrum, like Sarah.
Schwartz got connected to Sarah when the President of the Autism Society Manitoba passed on her name as an artist on the spectrum from whom she had purchased some lovely scarves. The rest, as they say, is history.
“It’s important to do this because there are so many misconceptions about autism,” says Schwartz. “Art is a way of getting people to change their perceptions, but getting them to think that the realizations that they come to, they achieved on their own, therefore changing opinions and attitudes with the least amount of resistance,” he explains. “I saw that through my Fringe show and therefore, wanted to expand on this initial attempt by getting others involved.”
Schwartz believes that Winnipeggers “aut” to meet “autists” on a spectrum that screams talent. So, he’s inviting everyone to experience “Awareness Through the Auts” at the Gas Station Theatre on Saturday, September 27, featuring comedians Benjamin Walker, Ryan Ash, Cory Falvo, Dan Goldberg, as well as “autists” like Sarah promoting their businesses and talents. Sarah will be there in person selling her colourful scarves; she will be joined by other local artists on the spectrum, including author David Perlmutter, who will be selling his latest book.
Together with the tremendous help of Adam Schwartz and the support of her parents, Sarah also now has her own website, where she sells her cuddly, radiant scarves. She hopes to one day receive one of the business grants that will eventually be offered by Schwartz, because she thinks it would help her to promote her scarves, get them into some stores and cover packaging costs.
Schwartz says, there’s a lot we all “aut” to know and support about autism. So, he’s encouraging the public to support these “autists” who are giving back to each other, to autism projects, and to the public through their warmth, creativity and sense of social responsibility.
“Awareness Through the Auts” comedy show is on Saturday, September 27 at the Gas Station Theatre, 445 River Avenue at 8 p.m. But, you may want to arrive by 7 p.m. to participate in a silent auction of beautiful creations by local “autists”.