THOMAS & FRIENDS™ UNITES WITH AUTISM NZ TO HELP RAISE AWARENESS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Sydney, September 10, 2010: Autism New Zealand Inc. has today announced a partnership with the world's number 1 pre-school property Thomas & FriendsTM. The charity has joined forces with HIT Entertainment, one of the world's leading independent children's entertainment producers and rights owners, and Australian/New Zealand Agent, Haven Licensing, to help raise awareness about autism. This follows on from similar partnerships the famous children's entertainment icon has formed with autism organisations around the world.
Research studies conducted in both Australia and the UK have demonstrated that many children with autism have a particular love of Thomas & Friends, who is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. Results from a survey of parents of children with autism, commissioned by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) mirror that of a similar survey conducted by the National Autistic Society (NAS) in the UK. Findings for both studies revealed children with autism like Thomas & Friends more than any other children's programme due to the characters' clear facial expressions, which make them easy to identify. Parents also reported that Thomas & Friends helped their children understand the feelings and emotions of others, which is an important step in assisting these children with developing social interaction skills and engaging with people around them.
To coincide with the start of the Autism NZ 2010 Conference held in Wellington on 10-12 September, Haven Licensing has produced special Thomas & Friends bumper stickers to generate gold coin donations and raise much needed funds to support Autism NZ and the important work that they do in the community. These stickers will be available from all branches of Autism NZ, and from the NZ ‘Day Out With Thomas' live event partner, the Glenbrook Vintage Railway in Auckland from September. All money raised will be used to support ongoing research into autism spectrum disorders.
"HIT Entertainment, Haven Licensing, and Thomas & Friends are delighted to have the opportunity to work together to support Autism New Zealand and it's endeavours, and to build on the wonderful relationship Thomas has formed with other autism associations in the UK, Australia, and Hong Kong," said Mr Tom Punch, Managing Director of Haven Licensing, Licensing Agent for Thomas & Friends in Australia and New Zealand.
Autism New Zealand Inc Chief Executive, Alison Molloy, says, "This is a wonderful opportunity for Autism NZ to generate greater awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders through an icon in children's entertainment. We know children with autism relate particularly to Thomas, and now we have the chance to build on that relationship."
As well as the stickers, proceeds from selected screenings of the new Thomas & Friends movie Misty Island Rescue now showing at all Hoyts and Berkeley cinemas in New Zealand will be donated to the Autism New Zealand Inc. Screening times and dates will be promoted via Autism New Zealand Inc's website and through their 15 local branches. "We hope the screenings generate greater awareness of autism and we encourage all members from the local community to show their support by attending the nominated screenings in their city", said Tom Punch.
Thomas & Friends fans will also be invited to go to the Autism New Zealand website www.autismnz.org.nz to play an interactive "Emotions Game", which helps children to identify emotions ranging from happy, sad, angry, surprised or scared. The game allows children with autism to learn about emotions in a fun and interactive way.
For further information on Autism New Zealand visit www.autismnz.org.nz
For further information, interviews or images, please contact:
Katerina Katris - Retail Marketing Manager at Haven Licensing on 61 2 9357 9885 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Boyer - National Funding & Communications Manager, Autism New Zealand on
+ 64 27 214 4765 or +64 4 470 7616 or email@example.com