Hornets' center Frank Kaminsky stands tall for Autism Speaks

Standing tall for Autism Speaks

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When you're a former college basketball player of the year, a first round NBA draft pick making big shots in the playoffs and 7 feet tall it can be kind of hard to blend in.

Frank Kaminsky though manages to do it with ease. He comfortably fits in wherever he is, including a recent meeting he had with a couple of families touched by autism.

"I'm just really excited to be able to sit down and have lunch with the family," said Kaminsky.

There are good reasons he's excited to get a better understanding of the developmental disorder that affects one in 68 children. It starts with Frank's mom who is a special education teacher.

"I've seen how disabilities can touch a family and how it can affect a family," said Kaminsky.

Even his own family. His step-sister Grace has down syndrome.

"Every time I'm around her, it's so much fun, we laugh," said Kaminsky. "She has a new catch phrase every time I see her. So, it's just been so much fun obviously having her around and seeing how much joy she can bring to everyone in my family's lives."

It's why Kaminsky jumped at the chance to be the face of a fundraiser for McAlister's Deli. The restaurant turned its sugar cookies blue this spring as a way to bring in money for Autism Speaks.

"Autism Speaks has meant a lot to us," said Bob D'Amelio.

D'Amelio was one of those taking part in the meeting with the Charlotte Hornets' Center. D'Amelio's son Christopher was diagnosed with autism at age two. It was 16 years ago, when few even talked about the disorder.

"They told my wife originally put him in an institution, kind of forget about him and have another child," said D'Amelio. "Obviously we didn't take that route."

Instead his family got educated and became bulldogs for the cause. Most recently D'Amelio helped push autism insurance reform through the North Carolina General Assembly. It's those fights and those struggles that makes him appreciate the support of people like Frank Kaminsky.

"His persona works perfect he can talk with the kids relate to them he's very soft spoken with them which is really great with these kids he can really connect with them," said D'Amelio.

"Everyone is unique, everyone is different everyone has their own thing," said Kaminsky. "Everyone just wants to be treated the same."

Lessons not learned on the basketball court, but in the experience of family.

"It's kind of weird that I'm in this position and that I get to go back and speak and have an impact in someway," said Kaminsky. "But anyway that I can help I'm willing to do. I love doing stuff like that."

McAlister's Deli is in middle of another fundraiser right now. The restaurant has again turned its sugar cookies blue. Part of the proceeds of every cookie sold in August will go to support the mission of Autism Speaks.

The biggest fundraiser of the year for the non-profit here in the Carolinas will take place October 22. The Walk Now for Autism Speaks will be held at zMax Dragway in Concord. Learn more about autism and how to organize a walk team by clicking here.

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