Lighting Up the Night


Local 25’s 8th annual Light up the Night Gala for Autism had the makings of a glitzy Hollywood premiere. There was the capacity crowd. Academy Award winners were present. There were smiling children with powerful messages. A live band and marching bagpipers entertained the crowd.

Since 2007, the Teamsters Local 25 Autism Fund has donated more than $2.75 million to area nonprofits that assist children and families on the autism spectrum. This year, the local raised more than $320,000 in donations.

“This gala is a success year after year because of everyone in this room,” said Local 25 President Sean O’Brien. “Everyone plays a role and because we work together we have been able to accomplish great things, like passing the landmark autism insurance legislation in Massachusetts and raising more than $2.5 million for charity.”

Among the audience: hundreds of labor members from Local 25 and beyond, plus Boston-area residents. The Boston Bruins’ mascot, Blades, fired up the crowd as the bagpipers played, and 9-year-old Liam Fitzgerald, also known as “The Fist Bump Kid,” joined the band to play the drums.

“As we look to the future, we must tackle the housing shortage that exists for young adults with autism once they turn 22, and continue to work with charities like the Challengers Little League that lets kids forget about their challenges and just play the game of baseball,” O’Brien said.

Five-time Academy Award-nominated writer and director David O. Russell was honored for his longtime efforts off-screen to raise national awareness of mental health issues, including as an advocate of the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which he helped introduce to Congress in 2013.

“I am honored to be up on stage with Liam Fitzgerald and Steve Mulcahy,” Russell said. “I am honored to be the father of my son. I’m an advocate for mental health rights. Making the film ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper helped bring awareness to mental illness. I want to thank all the members of Teamster Local 25, Sean O’Brien, Bill O’Brien, my driver and friend, Kevin Wright, and everyone for giving their support to help the cause for autism.”

The other honorees included Malden police detective, Steve Mulcahy Jr., who through a chance meeting helped a local boy on the autism spectrum, and Fitzgerald, who earned his nickname after a video of him fist bumping the Boston Bruins went viral with 5.5 million views.

To learn more about Local 25’s autism efforts, visit Teamsterslocal25autism.com.