Pineville Porcupines Partner with Autism Strong Foundation for Christmas in July

by Cole Watson

On July 8, the Pineville Porcupines of the Old North State League (ONSL) will be partnering  with the Autism Strong Foundation to host Christmas in July to raise awareness and acceptance for autism and other neurological disorders. The Autism Strong Foundation is a non-profit  organization dedicated to providing financial support and assistance to families with children on  the autism spectrum in the Charolotte metropolitan area. The foundation provides support to  families in over 14 counties in North Carolina. Representatives from Autism Strong will have a  booth at the game to further share information regarding their mission.  

Stephanie Melish Neuman is the Executive Director at the Autism Strong Foundation (ASF). She commented, “Our primary goal at Autism Strong is to provide much needed financial support to  the Greater Charlotte Region individuals with autism and their families. We do that through a  myriad of ways, predominately with our annual therapy scholarships, Angels 4 Autism Holiday  Relief program and emergency fund grants. We know that by removing financial stress, we allow parents to be stronger and more focused on their primary job of parenting and caregiving to their  child.” She continued, “Over the years, we have found that by collaborating together with other organizations, like the Pineville Porcupines, we are able to increase our impact, awareness and support of the local autism community. It’s amazing to see the heartfelt desire this team has to support autism and inclusion. ASF is humbled to have been asked to link arms with them this  season and we hope this is the start of much more to come for baseball and autism awareness as a whole." 

Four different families identified by Autism Strong were granted free entry into the game. This is part of the commitment to the partnership between both organizations. Continually, the Autism Strong mascot, Roary the Lion, will make an appearance at the game. Matthew Thompson, a 22- year-old from Rock Hill, South Carolina, serves as Roary the Lion. Matt is on the autism spectrum, and through this employment is empowered. 

Kristen Warner is the Autism Awareness Program Manager with the Pineville Porcupines. She has been involved with planning three different autism awareness nights for the Porcupine this season. She added, “Our goal is to help raise community awareness about autism while also  educating and fostering genuine acceptance for individuals on the spectrum. Our vision,  however, doesn’t stop there. On average, medical expenses for children with autism are 4 to 6  times greater than for children without autism. Additionally, navigating the complex world of  therapies, individualized education plans, and insurance can be an added burden for families with  members on the spectrum. We are proud to partner with the Autism Strong Foundation which  provides resources and financial support to families raising children with autism. Throughout the season we have been raising money for the Autism Strong foundation.” 

Warner continued, “On July 8th, we will host our second Autism Awareness theme game. That evening, we will celebrate Christmas in July alongside Santa who will be gifting four families in need from our community with household and back to school items. On July 17, we will host our last Autism Awareness theme night of the season with Princesses and Superheroes donated by My Pretty Princess. Both theme nights will have booths representing local therapy centers and  organizations that locally provide support and services for the Autism community. Additionally,  we will have some of our amazing special children from our community that will be helping with in-game activities those evenings as well. While these events will wrap up our theme nights for the season, The Pineville Porcupines will be continuing efforts in the off season to raise Autism Awareness and find ways to give back to the Pineville Community.” 

Warner has taken part in organizing many exciting initiatives for the night. For example, a raffle will be held to win three Wilson Authentic Autism Gloves provided by Iron-City Gloveworks with all the proceeds donated directly to the Autism Strong Foundation. In addition, Bethany’s Butterflies Foundation will be present with a booth to share information about their mission to also provide a brighter future for children with autism and neurological disorders. 

The Porcupines have created special uniforms that they will wear on autism awareness nights in addition to the league-wide hats. These uniforms include the autism puzzle piece, representing that every kid is different with their own strengths and challenges. 

Please join the Porcupines at Jack D. Hughes Stadium on July 8 where they will take on the  Carolian Braves. Tickets can be purchased here: game-tickets. Tickets for the July 17 contest can be purchased at the same link. 

The Autism Strong Foundation is a key partner in this initiative. For more information on the  Autism Strong Foundation please visit:  

For more information on Matthew Thompson and his journey to become Roary the Lion please visit:  

The Old North State League is a college summer wood bat league in North Carolina that features  20 teams not including Burlington and Danville. In 2025, the league plans to expand to 24 teams  and has been vetting markets and requests in anticipation of announcing the newest additions.