Bridging the gap
April 4, 2011
Bill Ingram and his wife, Marci, have committed $10 million to Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital to create one of the nation’s largest individual autism research funding resources: the Marci and Bill Ingram Research Fund for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Like many passions, Marci and Bill Ingram’s heartfelt support for autism research and family resources is rooted in personal experience. The parents of a son with autism, the couple struggled for years to navigate the murky waters of an autism diagnosis to find the best sources of support for their son.
They learned a lot along the way, said Bill, who is CEO of White Castle System, Inc., and a director of The Ohio State University Foundation. Their discoveries included the sizable gaps that exist among research scientists, families, access to information about autism, and assistance for those affected by the diagnosis.
The experience inspired the Ingrams to commit $10 million to Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital to create one of the nation’s largest individual autism research funding resources: the Marci and Bill Ingram Research Fund for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
It is estimated that 1 in 110 American children have an autism spectrum disorder, with the lifetime cost of caring for a child with an ASD estimated to reach $3 million.
“The idea for the gift came from our involvement in autism and having a child who is on the spectrum,” said Bill. “We have met a lot of families along the way and have heard a lot of stories about how hard it is to get good and consistent advice and access to therapeutic options.”
Managed jointly by Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the fund can be accessed by researchers from both organizations, representing a wide array of disciplines. The central funding source will also facilitate existing and future collaborations between the organizations. The first awards from the fund are expected to be made this year.
“We did not want to limit the gift strictly to medical research, because we know Ohio State has a wealth of resources and can develop impactful and novel supports for children and families impacted by autism,” Bill said. “There are a lot of ways to help, teach, and support these kids.”
The findings and the tools developed as a result of grants from the Ingram Fund will be made available to research scientists, physicians, educators, and social workers throughout the world.
“We have talked to parents who don’t know what to do about decision-making as their kids are becoming adults, and how to legally protect them,” said Bill. “Some people need just a little more help, but not so much that it takes their rights away. With the fund, the law school might get involved with the research. The advice and assistance are sorely needed.”
Bill hopes that the gift inspires others to give what they can. “I believe the fund can also serve as a way to build momentum and leverage the dollars that come into Children’s and Ohio State,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential for other donations, and Marci is working on that end of things.”
More than anything, the Ingrams want to help scientists and faculty attack the comprehensive range of issues that autism raises.
“Diagnoses go from one end of the spectrum to the other, with people who have kids with mild social impairments, to children whose parents have had to consider unattractive long-term care options,” said Bill. “We want every family affected by autism to have the support and resources they need.