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Autism On the Seas Announces National Grant Program Funded by Skyeward Bound Ranch


Program Offers Eligible Families with Special Needs the Chance to Enjoy a Cruise Vacation of a Lifetime

National Program Rolls Out Regionally Highlighted by Contests Offering Cruise Prizes Benefitting Local Non-Profits Supporting Autism

Dallas, TX (PRWEB) April 24, 2012 -- Autism on the Seas (AotS), a niche travel company catering to vacationing families with special needs, and Skyeward Bound Ranch (SBR), a non-profit charity dedicated to providing social and recreational interaction for specially challenged youth, jointly announced today that they will kick-off a national grant program enabling eligible low-income families with special needs children to enjoy a vacation experience of a lifetime.

“Announcing this grant program now, during National Autism Awareness month, is an opportune time for us to get the word out to families with autistic children,” says Mike Sobbell, founder and owner of Autism on the Seas. “Through our partnership with Skyeward Bound Ranch, we are now able to offer special families, who are otherwise unable to afford a cruise or resort getaway, a means to take a REAL vacation with us and other like families, in an environment that is comfortable, accommodating, accepting and FUN!”

According to Dalace Duvall, CEO of Skyeward Bound Ranch, with the grant program officially underway, regional kickoffs, highlighted by a contest starting this month in Texas, will continue to rollout across the U.S. through 2013. “Up until now, Skyeward Bound Ranch has largely operated as a local charity in the state of Texas. By partnering with Autism on the Seas, we can now offer children with special needs and their families from all over the U.S. an opportunity to get away and enjoy a sense of fun and normalcy. This will be a first for many of our families and we are grateful to be able to bring happiness to these most deserving folks,” adds Duvall.

“I Need a Special Vacation” Essay Contest Kicks Off in Texas

Starting in Texas, over the next 12-18 months, AotS will run in-market contests with participating local autism advocacy groups, as well as local chapters of national organizations, such as Autism Speaks and the National Autism Association. Families interested in entering the contest will be asked to write a 150-word essay on why they need a special vacation.

The winner will receive a paid cruise or land resort vacation with AotS. Additionally, the non-profit autism advocacy organization named on the entry form by the winner will also receive a cruise. The organization may use the cruise to raise funds or however they wish. Runner-up prizes will also be included.

Contest rules and submission deadlines will be listed on the AotS website, As the promotion is rolled out in each market, AotS will make announcements and post updates to their website. AotS is accepting entries from Texas contestants starting April 24th. The submission deadline is May 31st; winning family and organization will be selected and notified by June 20th, 2012.

Esteemed Panel of Contest Judges to Select Winners:

  •     Dr. Stephen Shore, Assistant Professor, Special Education at Adelphi University,

Author of “Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome,” “Ask and Tell: Self-Advocacy and Disclosure for people on the Autism Spectrum” and Coauthor, “Understanding Autism for Dummies”

  •     Kim Stagliano, Managing Editor of, is the author of “All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa” and “House of Cards,” writes for The Autism File and The Huffington Post

  •     Todd Tyler, Vice President of Marketing, Dynavox Technologies, the world leader in assistive technology for the disabled

  •     Samir Patel, President of OxyHealth, LLC (, the leading manufacturer of safe, medical grade, portable hyperbaric chambers for clinical and personal use

Grant Program - Open for ALL Special Needs Families

The SBR Grant Program is a program designed to financially assist families wishing to vacation with Autism on the Seas Cruises and Resort Stays who meet criteria set forth by Skyeward Bound Ranch. The grants may be awarded in any amount up to the full vacation cost for a family, minus the deposit*.

A Request Form for SBR Grant applications can be found on the AotS website. Completed grant applications are screened and submitted for review to a five-person panel to determine each candidate's eligibility by Skyeward Bound Ranch.

Qualifying applicants will be notified of their Grant status within 30 business days of the date the completed application is received by Skyeward Bound Ranch. Check out the AotS or the SBR website for other financial assistance programs, such as the Gift Card Program, to assist families currently booked on an Autism on the Seas Cruise or Resort Stay with Staff.

About Autism on the Seas
Founded in 2006, Autism on the Seas (AotS) is the flagship division of Special Needs on Vacation, LLC. AotS is a niche travel company that organizes and staffs cruise and land resort vacations for families with special needs. Our specially trained compassionate staffers provide care, attention and fun, as appropriate, to our special needs vacationers’ condition, comfort-level and ability. Our staff is accustomed to working with special needs passengers with a broad range of conditions, including autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other cognitive and intellectual developmental impairments.

AotS has a close-knit fan-base on Facebook and they love to hear success stories from families who have traveled with them – or are planning to! Catch us on Facebook at and on Twitter @AutismontheSeas.

About Skyeward Bound Ranch
Skyeward Bound Ranch is a Non-Profit, Tax Exempt 501(c)3 Charitable Organization dedicated to providing social and recreational interaction of specially challenged youth. Your support contributes significantly to our efforts to continue building an educational and entertaining program of the highest quality and national distinction with established and successful youth camps around the state of Texas. You are also serving as a standard of committed civic responsibility inspiring others to support important causes as well. Website:

*All families applying for financial assistance under the Skyeward Bound Ranch Grant Program are required to place their own deposit to secure their cruise/resort stay, upon being notified by Skyeward Bound Ranch that they have been awarded a grant. Vacation deposits usually range from $200.00 to $500.00 per cabin/room based the length of the cruise or resort stay.

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