SAN LEANDRO -- When her autistic son, William, needed to find some friends to play basketball with, Laura Bradshaw-Ve'e started up a weekly basketball night for children with autism.
Now the mother of two wants to turn her two-bedroom home into a group home for four young people affected by the condition, and she's getting the license to do it.
"I don't want to give my child to someone else to raise," Bradshaw-Ve'e said. "In addition, there's a current need for group homes for autistic children."
To secure money to open the group home and to keep the basketball program up and running, Bradshaw-Ve'e is hosting a fundraising luncheon for her nonprofit organization, Autism Family-Style, on Friday at Montclair Bistro in Oakland. She hopes advocates, attorneys, therapists and public supporters will show up to the event to network and socialize.
Bradshaw-Ve'e is very protective of her 12-year-old son, who she said has low verbal and communication skills and is extremely hard to take out to places other kids go, like stores and amusement parks.
"(Low-functioning autistic children) can't be managed in public," she said. "They yell, they scream, they cry, they run for no reason. They don't understand language. They can't have life and rules explained to them. What they are, are toddlers that get big. It's rough."
William is home-schooled because Bradshaw-Ve'e is afraid that he would get injured in special education classes at a public school. But, she said, William needs exercise and some amount of socialization. So, in 2011, she organized a basketball night in the gymnasium at First Presbyterian Church in San Leandro for kids with the same social deficits. Basketball nights happen every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. and feature free game lessons and security so the players don't get injured or run off.
"What they love about the gymnasium is they get to run freely," Bradshaw-Ve'e said. "They are completely accepted and get to be around with people who are like themselves. It's a social and recreational activity tied together."
The 10 kids who participate are similarly low-functioning and look forward to the weekly event. William hopes every day is basketball day, Bradshaw-Ve'e said.
Tammy Jeung's 9-year-old son, Tyler, has learned about the game through the program and is building confidence through playing.
"He has a lot of pride because he knows how to dribble the ball. He runs the drills," said Jeung, whose family lives in Oakland. "One of the things he can do now is shoot from the chest and make the basket. He was so excited when it made it in."
Tyler now gets to share his love for basketball with his brother, who is also a basketball player, and with his dad, who sits on the couch with Tyler as they watch professional basketball games.
Bradshaw-Ve'e will keep game night going and would love for more kids to show up, but she also wants to do more for the kids who participate. She said they need jerseys and accomplishment trophies just like kids in traditional sports programs do. That's where the first part of the money raised at the luncheon will go.
The remainder of the money will be put toward the seed fund for the group home. Bradshaw-Ve'e said she needs about $30,000 to pay staff and expenses before the home even opens.
In the meantime, Bradshaw-Ve'e is populating her website to include home lessons for parents of children who have autism so they can help their kin learn at home.
What: Autism Family-Style luncheon
When: 11:30 a.m. Friday, April 26
Where: Montclair Bistro, 6118 Medau Place, Oakland.
Purchase tickets: www.autismfamilystyle.org