LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For a woman from Lufkin, she not only has a professional reason to raise awareness for autism, but also a personal one.
Shelley McKinney, who works at the 'Courtyard Marriott' as a sales manager, has a son who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3.
McKinney is partnering with the hotel's operating team to raise funds for the cause that's close to her heart.
"A lot of people in the family thought that I was overreacting, but you're a mom," McKinney said. "You know these things. You just do."
McKinney is describing the moment when she found out her son had autism.
"As a mother, you're always going to be defensive for your children, but when your children especially don't have a way to communicate and explain to someone what they're going through, it is really difficult," she said.
And that difficulty is what McKinney is working on to change.
"There are so many people out there that still don't understand what someone with autism is going through," she said.
As an employee at Courtyard Marriott. operated by the hotel group Hersha Hospitality, McKinney and the hotel are hosting a garage sale to raise awareness for autism.
General manager Kristi Back says last year the business group raised more than $100,000. This year they aim to raise $150,000.
"We need to think that there might be a medical issue, there might be something deeper and don't walk away with pre-judgement," McKinney said. "The awareness, it makes people that are affected with autism feel more accepted."
McKinney says the Lufkin location underwent a huge renovation. And since they had a surplus of furniture, a garage sale with the autism awareness event fit perfectly.
She hope the event will change people's perception.
"There's not one person with autism going through the same thing," she said. "You have your social skills. People don't seem to understand why they don't like loud sounds. They don't understand why you can't touch them. Different one go through different things."
On sale will be the Courtyard Marriott hotel's formerly used furniture, baked goods and entertainment for children is also included.
The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.