Project HOPE Foundation helping people with Autism

SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA)-- Project HOPE talks about the services they provide for people with Autism.

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Project Hope shares its message via new race car

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The Project Hope race car was unveiled earlier this week to help raise awareness about the services available for families dealing with autism.

Former NASCAR SC Rookie of the Year joins Project Hope Foundation supporting Autism Awareness

Woodruff, SC (WSPA-TV) - A new partnership between car racing and the Autism community is hoping to bring attention and support to families impacted by the disorder.

One teen pro late model racer is hoping to help spread the word as quickly as he can.

The Project Hope Foundation offers a lifespan of services to the Autism community.

They are partnering with Colby Howard, former 2017 NASCAR SC  Rookie of the Year and current Anthony Campi racing, driver.  

Tuesday, students and clients at Project Hope in Woodruff had the opportunity to sign the hood of the pro late model drivers racecar.

Howard’s car will features the Project Hope Foundation logo on the hood and right side in honor of the collaboration.

The signed hood, will also be on display at the evening of Hope gala, the nonprofit organization’s annual fundraiser and auction, at the Greenville Convention Center on Saturday, April 27.

To sign up for the gala and attend visit

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Here’s more about Project Hope Foundation

project hope foundation provides a lifespan of services for the autism community, through programs that help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential. We are broad in our scope, serving across ages (from two to young adults), across the spectrum of autism, and across programs (aba therapy, classroom options, adult employment, social groups, life skills, community outreach, professional trainings). We are individualized in our approach, seeking to meet the unique needs of each specific person. Founded in 1997 by moms looking for services for their young sons with autism, project hope foundation offers programs that benefit not only the child affected with autism but also the entire family, all of whom are forever changed by this DIAGNOSIS. WWW.PROJECTHOPESC.ORG

Project HOPE Co-Founder Guest Blog on Hub City Kids

Autism Awareness Month: Reach Out and Connect


 Autism can be an isolating condition for both the individual and the family. Our friends on the autism spectrum often struggle with effective communication and appropriate interaction. Many engage in unusual, repetitive behaviors (gestures, motions, or sounds) that create stress in public scenarios. Over time, families living with autism frequently become increasingly homebound, avoiding potentially difficult situations.

With the rate of autism now at 1 in 59 children, many of you now have a child with autism in your extended family or circle of friends. You can help combat the tendency towards isolation by reaching out to connect with those living with autism.

Here are a few practical suggestions:

Ask about the child. Often people are not sure what to say to parents who are dealing with this crisis and so they say nothing. Try a simple: “How are things going with Johnny?” Be attuned to the parents’ mood. Sometimes they may want to celebrate a small victory; sometimes they may need to acknowledge the difficulties they are facing.

Any time you can spend with the child is a gift to the family. These children are usually not invited anywhere. Their interactions are often limited to only a few people.

-If you feel comfortable taking the child for a brief outing, those moments can be priceless – for the family, who will benefit from the respite; for the child, who will benefit from the interaction; and for you, who will benefit from seeing the world through another’s eyes.

-If you don’t feel comfortable taking the child somewhere, offer to sit and “play” with the child. That might mean watching a video together, sitting side-by-side at the computer, or repeatedly pushing a ball back and forth. Sometimes unexpected connections happen during those seemingly simple interactions.


Get down to eye level with the child. Our children with autism usually make limited eye contact so it is important to be ready for those glimpses.

Be patient. Children with autism often have limited conversational ability. Instead of trying to guess what the child wants to say, simply wait … with a look of interested expectation on your face. Give him the time he needs to get out whatever words he has.

Some parents may be sensitive about terminology. Many prefer the term “child with autism” rather than “autistic child” because that wording puts the child first.

Small talk can be tough. Bear in mind that these parents may have difficulty with the common small talk among parents about their children. It is hard for families freshly dealing with this diagnosis to join into normal child-related conversations.


Be kind and encouraging whenever you can. A child who appears to be having a tantrum may be a child with autism overwhelmed by sensory input. If the child is having difficulty, a smile of encouragement to the parents may be the lifeline they need.

Through our therapeutic and educational programs, Project HOPE Foundation helps children gain skills that can open the doors to community engagement. We’ve been serving Spartanburg families since our inception in 1997, but we did not have a local place to call home until 2018. Project HOPE Foundation is incredibly grateful for the warm welcome and financial support we’ve received from the Spartanburg community, as we continue to expand our reach through our new clinic here.

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Lisa Lane is the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Project HOPE Foundation, which she started with Susan Sachs in 1997 when they were both seeking autism services for their two young sons. 

UpstateBizSC Non Profit Minute

The Who’s on the Move, BizSC, Non Profit Minute is a quick, two minute interview in support of the amazing impact that local non profits have on our communities.

Lisa Lane, Executive Director, Project HOPE Foundation

Project HOPE Foundation is a Greenville-based non-profit that provides a lifespan of services for people with autism. Started in 1997 by two moms who were desperately seeking services for their young sons after they were diagnosed with autism, Project HOPE Foundation now serves more than 200 families across the Upstate, providing life-changing ABA therapy for children and young adults on the spectrum.

Autism rates are rising (currently 1 in 59) and the need for services is urgent. Hundreds of children in South Carolina are currently waiting for services, mainly because the Medicaid reimbursement rates for autism therapy in SC are among the lowest in the country. And most funding sources do not cover the cost of providing autism treatment.

Click HERE for video.

USC Highlights Alumnae's Accomplishments

Cause for hope

2 moms' nonprofit give lifeline to families coping with autism

When Susan Sachs’ son Michael was born in 1992, autism was still a relatively rare diagnosis — one in 2,500 children — and public awareness was slight.

“Michael had a normal development, he was precocious, talking early, walking early, and then, just within a matter of weeks, we lost him,” says Sachs, the pain in her voice still fresh. When Sachs says “lost,” she means that her happy, communicative son slipped into the abyss of autism, withdrawn and non-communicative. 

At the time, she didn’t know Lisa Lane, another mother in South Carolina’s Upstate region. Lane’s young son, Colby, would also be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. But both mothers learned about a therapy called applied behavior analysis, or ABA. It seemed like the only life raft in sight.

“The autism diagnosis is very traumatic, and it’s frightening. When I saw ABA therapy and the potential that it could hold for my child — and I know Lisa felt exactly the same way — 
I recognized in one moment that it was going to be life-changing for him. Whatever I had to do to have it, as a family we would do it,” Sachs says.

Now considered the gold standard for children with autism, ABA therapy was difficult to find back then and typically wasn’t covered by insurance. Sachs and Lane met while their sons were sharing the same early interventionist, and their fierce commitment to finding help for their sons soon expanded into a desire to help other families in the same boat.

South Carolina alumnae Susan Sachs, left, and Lisa Lane launched Project Hope to help their own sons and others on the autism spectrum. Twenty-two years later, their foundation has helped hundreds of families across the state.

In 1997, Sachs and Lane formed a nonprofit called Project HOPE Foundation to establish a preschool for children on the autism spectrum. Sachs’ and Lane’s education at Carolina was vital for launching and running the foundation — Sachs had earned a master’s of social work in 1979 and had 10 years of corporate management experience, while Lane had earned undergraduate and master’s degrees before completing a law degree in 1986. 

By 2007, autism awareness had become far more mainstream — one in 59 children are now diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder — and funding became available for ABA therapy on a statewide level. The problem was still that few providers were available. 

“So parents knew there was this wonderful, evidence-based, life-changing practice out there, but they couldn’t find it,” Lane says. “We were able to start another program under our nonprofit that would provide ABA therapy, and that has now grown to serve about 300 people every day at our six clinics across the Upstate and in Greenwood.”

In fact, Project HOPE’s clinics are now primary training sites and places of employment for more than 200 staff members. The daily therapy is intensive and can be exhausting, but the results are gratifying. Most children with autism who receive ABA therapy make significant, measurable progress, and nearly half of them are eventually able to mainstream into society. The number often improves if therapy starts before age 3.

When Wendy Rothermel’s son Cade was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, her family life was upside down, punctuated by his frequent temper tantrums. A trip to Disney World ended early because of Cade’s erratic behavior, and the Rothermels huddled together, unsure how to help him. They soon connected with Project HOPE, and Cade’s therapy began. 

There’s two things that got us through this, and I’m not going to be shy about it — Project HOPE Foundation and the grace of God. Without those two, I don’t know where we would be.

Wendy Rothermel

“When he started, he was doing about 30 hours a week, and this was intense one-on-one with his therapist. It was tough as a mom because I would think he was doing too much. But I’ll be honest with you, the first few weeks we were able to get potty trained, and life just started changing,” Rothermel says. “We still had things we had to adjust to as a family, but immediately we had results.”

Seven years later, Cade graduated from HOPE Academy and started fifth grade as a mainstream student in a regular school. 

“He went to camp this year for the first time,” Rothermel says. “I would have never thought it possible that he would be able to go to camp and spend the night by himself with no therapist, with nobody he knows, but he did it. He took care of everything. 

“There’s two things that got us through this, and I’m not going to be shy about it — Project HOPE Foundation and the grace of God. Without those two, I don’t know where we would be.”

Not every child on the autism spectrum achieves that level of success at Project HOPE, but everyone makes progress day by day, Sachs and Lane say.

More than 20 years after launching Project HOPE, Sachs and Lane point with pride to the adult employment program their foundation supports. They’re also making plans for a future residential facility for adults on the autism spectrum who need some level of social support to live by themselves. But there is still a long way to go. Project HOPE’s resources are limited, and more providers of ABA therapy are needed throughout the state. 

“We’re constantly looking at ways to serve more families,” Sachs says. “Everyone needs hope.” 

Posted on: April 3, 2019; Updated on: April 3, 2019
By Chris Horn,, 803-777-3687

Upstate Parent Magazine features Sensory Suite at the Well

Families of children with special sensory needs can now enjoy events at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, sharing family time and making memories in a setting that includes all.

The Well now includes a Sensory Suite designed with community input to meet the unique sensory needs of those who have difficulty processing the sights and sounds of a typical arena show. The suite is part of an ongoing effort by the arena’s management and staff to be inclusive to all needs and abilities. That effort began with offering Friendly Access Sensory Safety Kits that include comfort tools for guests at all events.

“I recognized quickly that families weren’t coming to an arena event because a member of their family wasn’t comfortable here,” Beth Paul, General Manager of the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, said. “We wanted to remove that barrier.”

Without many examples upon which to model the suite, community organizations, including The Meyer Center, Project HOPE and the Center for Developmental Services, as well as the families they serve, were asked to provide feedback on the suite’s development.

“It did start with trying to find ways to break down barriers,” Paul said. “It’s more than just remodeling a room. It takes creating a culture that is welcoming. We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

Representatives of The Well received training from Project HOPE before the sensory kits were made available.

“We continued training and we continued talking,” Paul said. “We have extended these initiatives into recruiting and our workforce.”

Tickets for the suite will be available for purchase for events, including hockey games, during which the view will not be obstructed. For other events, ticket holders can ask for access to the suite as a calming space. The suite debuted to guests at the recent Kelly Clarkson concert. Clarkson was so impressed with the idea that she talked about it from the stage. Upcoming concerts by Eric Church and New Kids on the Block will offer tickets to the Sensory Suite as well.

In addition to meeting sensory needs, The Well also offers Skate, Roll and Stroll days where families with children with disabilities can explore the ice in their wheelchairs or walkers, walk on the ice or be pulled around the ice in a sled or wagon.

“It’s a commitment that we’ve made,” Paul said. “It has to be a culture and something inherent in the business.”

To learn more, visit