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PHOENIX -- Mary Ann LaRoche began SEEDs for Autism in honor of her late brother, Paul, who was autistic. The years of dedicating her life to teaching autistic adults skills they can use to aid them in their independence has not gone unnoticed by one organization.

Members of Royal Neighbors of America surprised LaRoche with a check for $2,500 on Wednesday.

The organization focuses on "protecting women financially and empowering them to improve their lives, families and communities."

"It's great to be part of this presentation, [to] be a part of SEEDs for Autism and to have an impact on the lives of so many young people," said Michael Torrenti of Royal Neighbors of America.

A blacksmith by trade, LaRoche gathers volunteers in the arts, special education and business to teach participants how to create useful items which can be sold for profit, often the first real pay these young adults have ever received.

LaRoche says the grant awarded by Royal Neighbors will be put to great use.

"We have a shoe-string budget, so this will allow me to buy more tools and supplies for our young adults so that they can continue doing the great work they are doing," she said.

Sandra Haros , Reporter

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