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June 19, 2013

Ted Lindsay Foundation seeks nominations for annual Courage Award

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Philip Zupon, of Clarkston, accepts the 2012 Sergei Fedorov Courage Award from former Detroit Red Wings player Ted Lindsay.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS  —  The Ted Lindsay Foundation is once again on the hunt for a member of the community who has an exceptional amount of courage.

The foundation is dedicated to raising the money needed to find a cause and a cure for autism. It works closely with local charities and organizations, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Beaumont Health System’s HOPE Center, which provides hands-on education to parents with autistic children and other developmental disabilities.

In keeping with that mission, the Ted Lindsay Foundation is now taking nominations for its annual Sergei Fedorov Courage Award, which honors a local person who demonstrates great character and perseverance in the face of living with the disorder.

Lynn Lindsay LaPaugh is the daughter of the foundation’s namesake, Ted Lindsay, local philanthropist and former hockey player for the Detroit Red Wings. LaPaugh said her father’s effort to help those with autism is just one of the ways he’s chosen to give back over the years.

“Dad’s been such a role model. He’s always been very generous with his time throughout his life, as far as donating to different charities. That’s how we grew up, by giving back. And we’ve been very fortunate to have healthy children and grandchildren in our family,” she said. “It’s so rewarding to see the difference you can make and see the progress, I think especially with the HOPE Center. You can see from point A to point B, not only the difference in the children, but in their families. They can experience a better life because they know how to handle their situation better.”

The recipient of the Courage Award will receive a $2,000 prize, to be presented during the foundation’s annual golf outing Sept. 9 at Wabeek Country Club in Bloomfield Hills. Any person living in Oakland, Macomb or Wayne County who has been diagnosed with a type of autism spectrum disorder is eligible to be nominated.

In 2012, the honor was given to Philip Zupon, of Clarkston. Zupon, now 32, was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 3. The journey since then, he said, hasn’t been an easy one.

“I had all the developmental delays of an individual with full-blown autism. I couldn’t talk at a normal level until I was in the fourth grade. I had all kinds of learning problems throughout school: sensory integration, problems with touch, smell, and light and auditory. I couldn’t deal with flickering lights or loud rooms or machinery,” said Zupon.

With the help and support of those around him, along with a myriad of therapies and treatments, he was able to get through school and have what he calls a “normal life.” But Zupon wasn’t interested in normal — he wanted something extraordinary. He went on to college, where the socially nervous young man made throngs of friends and worked to earn his bachelor’s degree in history from Oakland University and eventually a master’s degree from Wayne State University in library and information science.

He said that before he graduated from WSU, a family friend came to visit him on campus. She brought along her own autistic 10-year-old son, and the three toured the downtown Detroit university, visited local restaurants and Zupon’s high-rise apartment. After seeing how independent he was in the bustling city, Zupon said, she decided to nominate him for the Courage Award. And he is forever grateful.

“It was probably one of the best experiences of my life since I got my Eagle Scout award years ago. That’s a lot, considering I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree,” he said. “I come out of school in the middle of the recession when there are no jobs and (I wondered), ‘Did I do the right thing? Did I go in the right direction?’ I was going through a real letdown, and then I get this call and I had the chance to go speak in front of Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe.”

Zupon said he’s used his prize money to start paying off his student loans, and he’s excited to meet the next recipient of the award.

That’s where the community comes in. To nominate an outstanding individual with autism spectrum disorder for the 2013 Sergei Fedorov Courage Award, visit www.tedlindsay.com to download the nomination form.

The completed forms must be returned by June 29 either via email to tlfcourageaward@gmail.com or by mail to Mrs. Marlo Moeller, 6328 Elsey Dr., Troy, MI 48098.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.