DANVILLE — Tim Welsh, a longtime parent advocate for autism, has seen too many families at the breaking point.
It has been his dream to create a safety net for those families — many coping with autism without enough help or money to get it — and now he hopes to achieve that through a new not-for-profit agency he has launched with California businessman/autism advocate Lawrence "Larry" Goldfarb.
The new organization, named AutismAid, will work to raise money to support community agencies serving people with autism and their families, said Welsh, of Catlin.
"The impetus for this organization is boots on the ground, hands getting dirty, helping families that are at the breaking point," he said."
Welsh and Goldfarb say they met through social media.
Both men have 14-year-old autistic sons, and Welsh uses the name "Tanner's Dad" for his autism advocacy through social media and has more than 10,000 followers on Twitter.
Goldfarb, the founder of LRG Capital Group, said he and Welsh began talking and found they have similar goals.
"I have never come across anyone as driven," he said in a phone interview. "Tim is driven."
Both Welsh and Goldfarb say they don't see federal fraud charges Goldfarb settled last year impeding their goal to raise money for their new autism organization.
Goldfarb settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Attorney's Office in March 2011.
The SEC alleged he concealed more than $12 million in investment proceeds that he owed investors in his hedge fund and diverted the money to other entities he controlled. Goldfarb and his company, Baystar Capital Management LLC, settled without admitting guilt, and he agreed to return about $14 million (including interest) to investors, pay a $130,000 penalty and to be barred doing investment business for five years, according to the SEC.
His settlement with the U.S. Attorney's Office included agreeing to pay about $12 million in restitution to investors and being barred from the investment business for three years. The government agreed to defer prosecution and dismiss charges if terms of the agreement are met.
Goldfarb says he can't work as a broker or dealer, but that doesn't affect his philanthropic work.
"I'm still on the boards of so many charities, and have not resigned, and nobody has cared," he said.
Goldfarb calls the SEC complaint "unfortunate," but points out he settled, "and at some point you have to move on."
"I would be very surprised if the SEC had any problem with me helping autistic children," he adds.
As for Welsh, it's not an issue.
"It's done and in the past," he says.
As far as he's concerned, Goldfarb has already saved one life by moving forward with AutismAid: his own, Welsh says. How many times he's been on the edge when his son, Tanner, is up two-to-five times a night and getting about five hours of services a week when he needs 40-plus.
Goldfarb said his own son, Julian, has made good progress because he could afford to provide the help he needed.
"But what about all the people I deal with every single day who can't afford all the support services that Julian got," he says.
Goldfarb has long been involved with Autism Speaks, an organization he and Welsh say focuses on awareness and research.
Their new organization "won't have hoity-toity goals," Goldfarb says.
What he and Welsh want is to get the community organizations the help they need, so they can help the families and children dealing with struggles in day-to-day life, he says.
"The trouble is there are so many fiefdoms in the autism world," Goldfarb says. "We don't want to run anything. We want to use a national presence to raise money, and provide a safety net to distribute to local organizations who will execute their business plans from the money we give them."
Goldfarb said the new agency will be based with him in Marin County, Calif., but he hopes Welsh will serve as its executive director or a board member in charge if he has the time.
"Without Tim, we wouldn't have done this," he says.
Welsh and Goldfarb say they are inviting businesses, non-profit agencies, medical providers and others worldwide to participate in AutismAid. They are taking submissions from regional service providers and can be reached by email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.