Light It Up Blue Rockland wrapped up its 2011 campaign with the promise of more to come.
"This will be an ongoing yearly event," said Kevin Joyce of Prudential Joyce Realty, one of the campaign organizers. "We will have time to plan and time to make us grow and truly make Rockland County Blue."
Joyce and co-workers Maureen McEnroe and Mary Screene organized the campaign, which ran through all of April, in just a couple of months this year. The 47 businesses that took part combined to raise $15,000.
They handed over the money to Autism Speaks Regional Director Christie Godowski at a reception Wednesday evening at TD Bank in Pearl River. Godowski said that the Rockland County campaign has become a model for similar efforts elsewhere.
"We were approached by Mary and Kevin who said they had this great idea," Godowski said. "We said that's great. Go for it. We never imagined it would be what it became. It is the first time, as an organization, we have ever seen an entire county light it up blue.
"Never has a hometown feeling been more present than in Rockland County. It has something that has echoed across the country. I have people calling from Texas and California asking how did you get them to do that? We didn't make them do it. They just did it. It is really becoming a benchmark for other counties and cities across the country to do something very similar. You guys have so much to be proud of."
Autism Speaks is a 501c3 charitable organization which works to fund research into the cause and treatment of autism and promotes awareness of the condition.
"All of this money raised will go to help support services in Rockland County and the Lower Hudson Valley," Godowski said.
Light It Up Blue Rockland was not the only group to make a donation Wednesday.
The Hudson Valley Chapter of the Nam Knights, a military law enforcement motorcycle club that has supported the Light It Up Blue Rockland campaign, made a $500 donation.
The Rockland County Teachers Association also held various fundraisers and donated nearly $5,000.
"We thought this was really exciting," said Donna Ramundo of Pearl River, who is the president of the Nyack Teachers Association and the Rockland County Teachers Association. "Each district did things they were able to do. We do have those kids with special needs in our classes and we know how difficult it is when we don't have the materials and the things that are needed. The teachers, I have to tell you, once we said it, the money came out. I had one of my teachers give me $40 for four (raffle) tickets. Teachers will always be there for kids."
McEnroe said that they would be reaching out to groups such as Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs around Rockland County to expand the campaign for next year.