Each donor has a unique reason for establishing a charitable fund at the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, but none is more deeply personal than that of Shelly and Ray Mattie, who created Connor’s Connection, a donor-advised, passthrough fund that provides grants for activities, supplies and technology to help autistic children in Lycoming County.

When their first-born son, Connor, was diagnosed with autism, the Matties dedicated themselves to helping him achieve his full potential. They also committed themselves to raising community awareness of the needs of autistic children and helping other parents meet those needs.

Mr. and Mrs. Mattie, Connor and his brother Sam do everything as a family unit. All are on hand to participate in grant check presentations. Both Connor and Sam participate in an annual lemonade-stand fundraiser— which raises thousands of dollars—to benefit Hope Early Intervention Services for children with special needs. This past year, Connor, cheered on by his family, ran in a 5K to raise awareness for children with autism. “I want to run for autism so people understand,” Connor said.

The teachers and staff at C.E. McCall Middle School in Montoursville understand. In elementary school, Connor struggled academically and socially. Today he is an honor roll student and was named Student of the Month. The difference, Mr. Mattie believes, is the support Connor, and other special needs students at the school, receive. “We have a team behind us, including a super special education teacher who believes that any child can be reached.” Connor’s Connection was created to ensure that autistic children throughout the region have the chance to be reached.