8 Celebrity Parents Who Champion Autism Awareness

With new research just released that reports one in 88 children and one in 54 boys has an autism spectrum disorder, it's more important than ever to do all we can to spread awareness for the disorder. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we decided to take a look at 8 Hollywood do-gooders who have been working to champion the cause.

Toni BraxtonToni Braxton1. Toni Braxton
Grammy-winning singer Toni Braxton knew when her son Diezel was just 9 months old that something wasn't right - and two years later he was diagnosed with autism. Braxton told OK Magazine: "They haven't figured out what triggers [autism], but whatever it is, I don't care. Find a cure. Help my kid; help all the other kids." Since then, Braxton has been doing her part to help find a cure, actively advocating for the Autism Speaks organization and becoming the face of 2012's SheKnows Where's the Other Sock? campaign to raise funds for the cause.
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Holly Robinson PeeteHolly Robinson Peete2. Holly Robinson Peete

Actress, philanthropist, and devoted mom of four, Holly Robinson Peete has been actively campaigning for autism awareness ever since her eldest son, RJ, was diagnosed on the spectrum in 2000. Peete continues to be an inspiration for all families affected by autism, from starting the HollyRod Foundation which is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for autism and Parkinson's Disease, to co-writing the children's book, My Brother Charlie, with her daughter.
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Related: How the vaccines and autism debate unfolded

Tommy HilfigerTommy Hilfiger3. Tommy Hilfiger

When he's not designing polo shirts and classic chinos, this iconic fashion designer can be found raising funds in support of autism awareness. He has been a longstanding member of the Autism Speaks foundation, was honored last year for helping to raise over 1.3 million dollars for individuals with autism and their families, and just last month released a print ad for the "Odds" campaign. Never has autism awareness seen a more stylish supporter!
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Katherine HeiglKatherine Heigl4. Katherine Heigl

Our favorite Grey's Anatomy alum is one of many stars who joined this year's Lindt Gold Bunny Celebrity Auction to benefit Autism Speaks. The auction featured 75 porcelain versions of the Lindt Gold Bunny autographed by 75 of Hollywood's finest, including Heigl, Carrie Underwood, Owen Wilson, Diane Keaton, Lance Armstrong, and more! With 100 percent of the proceeds going to Autism Speaks, we couldn't think of a sweeter way to raise money for the cause!
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Related: The Autism-Spectrum Disorders Guide - Causes, testing, therapy, and more

Dan MarinoDan Marino5. Dan Marino

His days of throwing touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins may be long behind him, but that hasn't stopped Dan Marino from keeping busy. After his son was diagnosed with a less severe form of autism at the age of 2, Marino and his wife, Claire, developed the Dan Marino Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding research, services, and treatment programs for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Marino continues to advocate for autism, announcing plans earlier this year to start a college for those with autism and other special needs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Kate WinsletKate Winslet6. Kate Winslet

When she's not starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio or Jude Law, this Hollywood do-gooder spends her time crusading for autistic kids. She founded The Golden Hat Foundation - dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with autism, and just last month she released the coffee table book The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism. While none of her children have been affected by the disorder, Winslet has said she fights for the cause because: "I simply couldn't conceive of how devastating it would be not to be able to hear my children's voices. Not to be able to communicate with them, to hear them learn, grow, and express themselves verbally."
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Related: 10 vaccines recommended for babies

Sylvester StalloneSylvester Stallone7. Sylvester Stallone

Rocky star Sylvester Stallone became a champion for something other than boxing after discovering that his youngest son, Seargeoh, was autistic. Following the news, Stallone and his ex-wife, Sasha, went to work setting up a research fund under the National Society for Children and Adults with Autism. Referring to their efforts, Stallone told People magazine: "Sasha does the hard, in-the-trenches warfare. I use my films to have premiers that raise money for the fund." So really, Stallone is helping to fight autism, one punch - jab - hook at a time.
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Jenny McCarthyJenny McCarthy8. Jenny McCarthy

After her son was diagnosed on the spectrum at the age of 2, McCarthy has valiantly devoted her time and energy to fighting for autism awareness. While you might not agree with her outspoken, anti-vaccine stance, there's no denying the impact she's having on the cause. From acting as president of Generation Rescue and writing several books on the topic to testifying before Congress and designing a special collection of shoes to raise funds for the cause - McCarthy is one of the busiest philanthropists in Hollywood!
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- By Jenn Gimbel

For 4 more celebrity parents who champion autism awareness, visit Babble!


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