When Charles O’Neill first arrived in the United States from Liverpool, England at the age of 23, he helped raise money for his shipmates who could not afford health insurance.
Today, O’Neill, of Howard Beach, is helping the Autism Society of America Foundation raise $10 million for research into the causes, treatments and cures for autism.
The non-profit organization will host Cycle USA (to Understand & Solve Autism), which will be the first nationwide event specifically dedicated to raising funds and raise consciousness for autism.
According to O’Neill, who has helped raise funds for the race, Cycle USA will consist of two bike riders who will trek from New York City to San Diego, which is a distance of 7,000 miles through 48 cities.
He will accompany the riders, one of whom is from Canada and the other is from the United Kingdom, in a van for three months.
“I feel very strongly about this,” he said. “I have always had a talent for raising funds. This is why I do this now.”
Aside from raising funds from different corporations around the world, O’Neill has obtained a painting of the British rock group, The Beatles, for the surviving band members to sign.
Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison have already agreed to sign it, as well as the sons of the late John Lennon, O’Neill said.
The painting will be given to the Autism Society of America Foundation, which will auction it and use the proceeds for Cycle USA.
While the federal goverment spends approximately $16 million for research through the National Institute of Health, O’Neill said that is not enough money to find the best treatment for autism.
O’Neill wanted to get involved with raising money for autism after a traumatic incident in his family.
His sister died a few years ago at the age of 43. She had organized centers in England on research concerning the cause of autism.
His sister also left behind a son, who suffers from autism. Part of the reason why O’Neill is helping the organization to raise funds is to honor the memory of her sister as well as encouraging his nephew.
Cycle USA will hosts a fundraiser on the day before the race on Sunday, March 25th at Dantes Catering Hall at LaGuardia Airport from 7 to 10 p.m.