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Anniversary meal supports community cause
Raises money for device that can detect autism
Tommy Bagwell, left, chats with Peter Lewis, program manager for the Marcus Autism Center, about a system designed to aid with early detection of autism in children. - photo by Jim Dean

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A local restaurant raised nearly $4,000 for a new autism detection device during its anniversary dinner Monday night.

The buffet meal at Tam’s Backstage, located inside the historic Cumming schoolhouse, generated donations for the device, which is being developed by the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University.

The device will hold a clinical trial at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Forsyth location on Peachtree Parkway.

The equipment and trial will cost about $250,000, of which about $100,000 had been raised prior to the Tam’s event.

The autism detection device uses cameras to focus on a child’s eyes to measure response to videos and images they’re watching.

It could be used to detect autism much earlier than current methods, which could make a big difference in the development of children with the condition.

“We’re always happy to give back to the community that supports us,” manager Brian Tam said of the fundraiser that over eight years has raised money for different community needs.

He noted that he was especially pleased to have Peter Lewis, one of the researchers working on the project, in attendance Monday.

Beth Buursema, community outreach manager for Children’s Healthcare, said she and other leaders were “so grateful” to the Tam’s Backstage family for their support.

“Their generosity and the outpouring of support we have received from the community will forever change the lives of these children with autism spectrum disorders,” she said.