FANWOOD/SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Organized by 14-year-old Mallory Banks, the first annual Rockin’ For Autism Music Festival at LaGrande Park in Fanwood on April 16 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. will support autism research.

The all-day festival will feature musical acts, food trucks, autism workshops, inflatables and the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Baseball League Opening Day Ceremony 

Banks, a Fanwood resident, has raised more than $10,000 for autism research since 2011. All proceeds from the Rockin’ For Autism go to Autism NJ, a statewide network of parents and professionals dedicated to improving lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Banks began raising money five years ago in honor of her brother Ethan (16) and others affected by autism spectrum disorder. 

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“For the past few years, I’ve had a lot of success in raising funds for autism awareness by hosting bake sales and raffles. This year, I wanted to do something bigger and better, and get more of the community involved,” said Banks, who conceived of the festival while recovering from spinal surgery last year. “The Rockin’ For Autism music festival is like a dream come true, and I am so excited that our mayor and so many local bands and businesses have committed to helping me raise funds for autism awareness.”

In 2015, the teenager approached Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr during the town’s annual Fanny Wood Day celebration and pitched her idea for hosting a music festival in LaGrande Park. Since then, Mayor Mahr has worked closely with Mallory and her parents, Jeff and Gina Banks; and local government agencies to help facilitate the event. (In 2014, the Fanwood Borough Council honored Mallory for raising $3,500 for autism awareness and proclaimed June 17 to be Mallory Banks Day.)

“Mallory Banks is an extraordinary girl, whose passion for raising awareness for autism is truly inspirational and sets an example for others to follow. I am honored to able to support her efforts and applaud her deep commitment to community advocacy,” said Mayor Mahr. “With Everything that the Rockin’ For Autism has to offer, I am confident that the annual festival will exceed expectations in terms of raising awareness and funds, and will have a long-lasting, positive benefit for Fanwood as well.”

Among the many musical acts scheduled perform include: Goodworks, Three-Piece Nugget, Broadcaster, Leave the Gun, Strung at Heart, The Jeff Birns Band, and Eric Harrison’s Crash Course. The event will be MC’d by Main Source DJs.

Many local businesses and organizations have also pledged to support the festival, including: Nick’s Pizza & Deli, Fanwood Bagels & Deli, and Frank’s Auto Repair in Fanwood; GrillStone, Rich Tric Photography, Temple Sholom and The JCC of Central NJ in Scotch Plains; The MAX Challenge and Cesar Kai Academy in Cranford; Cindy Smith Dance Studio in Garwood; Main Source DJs in Woodbridge; and New Jersey American Water in Voorhees.

The festival will also coincide with the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Youth Baseball League's Opening Day ceremony. Fanwood Mayor Coleen Mahr will throw the ceremonial first pitch to commence the 2016 baseball season. In addition, the Wolves Basketball Academy will also run clinics on the basketball courts, and the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Soccer Association will organize impromptu games during the event.

The festival will also feature a variety of autism clinics, including workshops by Jammin’ Jenn, which has been using music therapy to connect with special needs children and adults since 2009. Autism New Jersey and Children’s Specialized Hospital will also partake in spreading awareness.

Mallory Banks, an Autism Awareness Junior Ambassador, ranks among the top kids in New Jersey who raised money for Autism Awareness Month. To volunteer, sponsor or exhibit at the event, please contact Jeff Banks at 973-464-5477.