Aces for Inclusion golf event raises money for inclusive education program at UMaine

More than 50 golfers, including over 30 University of Maine alumni and students, took part in the inaugural Aces for Inclusion benefit tournament at Fairlawn Golf and Country Club in Poland, Maine in late July.

The event raised more than $4,400 for Maine Access to Inclusive Education Resources (MAIER), which provides information and resources for families, educators and service providers to assist individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities navigate and access inclusive education programming. Formerly the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research, the program was established at the UMaine College of Education and Human Development in 2014 with a grant from the Maine Department of Education. It continues to receive the bulk of its annual funding from the Maine DOE Office of Special Services and Inclusive Education.

Organizer Chris Smith put the tournament together as a way to give back to MAIER, whose services his family has utilized. Smith’s son, Patrick, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in July 2020 when he was four-years-old.

“When we got the news, we had a wave of emotions,” says Smith. “We didn’t know what the diagnosis meant for Patrick’s future or where exactly to turn to get him the best and most appropriate support possible. We were worried about our sweet boy being treated differently by people. Then we found MAIER and discovered a number of resources for parents of children with ASD that we were able to utilize right from our home, which we were incredibly grateful for during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are lucky to have MAIER in our Maine community and happy to give back to this important organization.”

The money raised will go toward MAIER’s family partnership programs, helping make events offered throughout the state free of charge for Maine families, and providing support for sensory kits and activities, as well as educational materials, and training staff on how to make events more inclusive for all. The University of Maine Foundation helped to facilitate the gift transaction.

MAIER research associate and family partnership director Anica Miller-Rushing attended the Aces for Inclusion tournament and thanked the Smith family and all the golfers for their support.

“Thanks to their thoughtful and generous philanthropic efforts, more Maine families of children with autism and other disabilities will be able to access inclusive educational services and programming,” Miller-Rushing said.

The tournament included a team scramble, hole-in-one competition, 50/50 raffle and several prizes. Business sponsors included RLC Engineering, Gray Family Vision Center, TRSS Wealth Management, Port Property Management, Pine Tree Events, the Kitchen Network, POWER Engineers, Phil Kilcollins Farms and Stone Coast Handyman.

For more information about MAIER, contact Miller-Rushing,, or MAIER director Sarah Howorth,