The 17th annual Aspire Spring Gala featured heartfelt “Dear Aspire” messages from those whose lives have been touched by MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s successful, therapeutically-based program at the Lurie Center for Autism. Among them, “You’ve taught me to be myself,” and “You’ve given me a voice.”

The March 30 gala raised $2.6 million to support Aspire. The program helps children, teens and adults with high-cognitive autism spectrum disorder or a related social profile to develop the skills necessary to live full, independent lives. Programs include a college mentorship group and young adult internships. Aspire also supports more than 17 area school districts and conducts educational workshops that train more than 1,000 professionals and parents each year to help them meet the complex needs of individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.

Created by longtime partner Rafanelli Events, the cocktail reception at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston attracted more than 850 guests and featured dinner-by-the-bite, a donut wall and live music by the Berkshire Hills Music Academy Performance Troupe.

Seth Rogers, a former Aspire intern, introduced event co-chair David Long, chairman and CEO of Liberty Mutual Insurance and a member of the MGH Board of Trustees. Co-chair Tim Sweeney, president of Global Consumer Markets at Liberty Mutual Insurance, launched an impromptu live auction featuring a package that included two Super Bowl tickets.

“All of us at Aspire are grateful to all of you,” said Scott McLeod, PhD, executive director of Aspire. “You support the program, you speak out, you show up. You make it possible for me to say that no Aspire applicant is turned away because of a family’s inability to pay. That is what really matters. That is what’s making it possible for children, teens and adults on the spectrum to pursue careers and lead full lives.”

Read more articles from the 04/7/17 Hotline issue.