Guests Ante Up $250K for Autism Fight

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TACA Founder Lisa Ackerman is flanked by former NFL plaers Jason Bell, left, and DeShaun Foster.
Guests playing poker at Ante Up for Autism.

The 5th Annual Ante Up for Autism “Gala and Casino Night” this month attracted more than 300 people and raised some $250,000 for Newport Beach-based Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) – a national non-profit organization with a mission to educate, empower and provide support to families affected by autism, and to speed up the cycle time from suspicion to autism diagnosis to effective treatments.

“The proceeds from this event will help TACA families who are struggling to battle the confusion of autism,” said Pat McIlvain, the event co-chair and VP of Oakley Sports Marketing.  “Thanks to the efforts of TACA, many families are given hope and guidance to put the puzzle pieces in place and unlock the potential of their children.”

“When my son Dylan was diagnosed with autism nearly 10 years ago, my wife and I had no idea what autism was or how it would affect our family,” McIlvain recalled. “We were lost until we found TACA.”

Held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa, the event included a VIP red carpet entrance, cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres on the resort lawn, a live performance by “One Tree Hill” actress and singer Kate Voegele, tournament poker with tips from poker stars Michelle Lau, David Mosikian and Joe Sebok, a dinner buffet, and a live silent auction.  The winner of this year’s poker tournament was Chuck Smith of Seal Beach.

Celebrity attendees included actress Amber Lancaster of MTV’s “The Hard Times of RJ Berger” & CBS’s “CSI: Miami,” Alexis Bellino of “The Real Housewives of OC,” actor, writer & producer Johnathon Schaech, actor Clifton Collins Jr., actor Ken Davitian, actor John Hensley, actress/TV host Nicky Whelan , “Deal or No Deal” model Leyla Milani of Newport Beach, musician, Kelley James and television host and spokesmodel Renée Herlocker handling red-carpet MC duties.

Professional athlete attendees included X Games gold medal snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, pro beach volleyballers Kerry Walsh and Casey Jennings, former NFL players Jason Bell and DeShaun Foster, and Olympic gold medal hurdler Felix Sanchez.


For more information on TACA, visit


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