WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A Luzerne County non-profit hosted its inaugural gala with a masquerade twist Thursday to raise awareness and support for individuals with autism.

Thursday night’s gala was a special milestone for the Autism Awareness NEPA organization.

Dozens of people danced the night away in Downtown Wilkes-Barre in support of its mission.

Wearing masks, guests filled the Westmoreland Club in Downtown Wilkes-Barre for Autism Awareness NEPA’s” inaugural gala.

It’s a first for the Luzerne County-based organization that was founded 15 years ago.

“The whole intent and purpose behind creating our organization was to establish a place where we could raise money for organizations that are local to enhance and promote their programs. It’s really to promote awareness, but then also to be able to raise funds to enhance programs in our area in the northeast,” said Tara Quinn, Founder of Autism Awareness NEPA.

Quinn says grants are made available every year to support the enhancement of local community programs for families and individuals with autism in Luzerne county.

“The spectrum is so varied, there’s students or kiddos who may not have language to students who have language and can function on their own in society. So, everything and in between needs to be able to be serviced,” said Quinn.

PA live! host Chris Bohinski served as the emcee.

The event featured live music and silent auctions, including artwork made by people with autism.

“We’re trying to just have a good time and raise funds and most importantly awareness for the people that are here tonight. My husband Dr. Sanders is speaking tonight about personally what it’s like to have autism affect your life,” Doctor Jeannette said Dr. Jeanette Sanders of Autism Awareness NEPA.

Being the father of a child with autism, Sanders shared his experiences with the crowd.

“I think the most important thing that I’ve learned being a father of a child with autism is perspective, and trying to look at things from Jack’s, Jack is my son, he has autism, and trying to look at things and the world through his eyes and seeing how he sees things differently,” said Dr. Chris Sanders of Autism Awareness NEPA.

Autism Awareness NEPA has a goal of raising $50,000.