Philanthropy Miami Shark Tank winner to advocate for people with autism

Deborah Dietz plans to stretch the $5,000 Philanthropy Miami Shark Tank grand prize to help as many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Miami-Dade County as possible.

Dietz’s nonprofit, Disability Independence Group (DIG), teamed up with the Coral Gables Police Department and the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities to compete in the final round of the Shark Tank competition on Apr. 16. Her group, along with four other finalists, each had five minutes to make their pitch to a panel of business and community leaders for the $5,000 grand prize — seed money to help start a project that tackles a community need. “We’re so excited to have won the shark tank.

We’re so honored and proud of this,” Dietz said. “It’s so much more than $5,000. We were able to stand up in a room full people and tell them our plan. We were nervous and at the same time exhilarated. Now we get to put our winnings to good use.”

DIG’s project — Wallet Cards, Let’s Save a Life — set out to equip people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a social communication disability that worsens under stressful conditions, with the tools and know-how to manage challenging situations.

The nonprofit and its partners proposed creating wallet cards that explain the traits associated with autism to police and fire fighters among others, and train people with ASD how to manage different situations to alleviate misunderstandings.

“This solution allows first responders the ability to take a step back and evaluate a situation with the correct information. The goal is to not have the person’s actions misinterpreted so that they are wrongly arrested or worse,” Dietz said.

People with ASD often have trouble communicating , especially in stressful situations. Loud noises or flashing lights can enhance their condition, making communicating challenging. The wallet cards will help explain ASD and provide additional contact information. DIG’s team beat out groups that sought to create a summer program for deaf teens, clothe homeless students with school uniforms, train college students in suicide prevention and work with incoming high schools students so they don’t drop out of school.

Leave A Legacy of Miami-Dade ( launched the shark tank competition in March at Philanthropy Miami, the group’s annual two-part nonprofit conference. More than 50 teams competed in the shark tank, which sought to encourage nonprofits to team up with other groups and businesses to solve a community need.

“The shark tank competition challenged nonprofits to work together to solve a problem and ultimately, to help people in need in our community,” said David Halpern, co-chair of Philanthropy Miami. “Our goal was to showcase how working together often gets more done than going it alone.”

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