Have You Met Cricket Barrientos?
To be a strong voice for those with autism is Cricket Barrientos’ ultimate goal. She founded Sounds of Autism in May of 2012. "Our mission is to integrate autistic children and their families back into the community, using love, support, and modern technology!"
A mother of two, Cricket’s son was diagnosed with autism when he was just 18 months of age. "Starting this nonprofit was not something I originally planned. But one day I found a seed in my coffee cup, found another seed the next day, and soon found more seeds on my patio table. This pattern continued, and with these coincidences I started to ask, what’s the message here? Not too long after I met a gentleman at my restaurant who was an advocate for the Hispanic community and also a Christian radio DJ. I told him about my seed story and he immediately came back with ‘Start a nonprofit for autism. I think you’d do awesome!’ After I received this message I went back into the restaurant kitchen and found a sprouted lemon seed on the counter! Who couldn’t miss THAT symbolism? And since then I have continued to just put it all into God’s hands."
She continues, "My first step was to start a Facebook page called Growing with Autism (7 seeds). I use this page to support families and friends who struggle with raising a child on the autism spectrum. Within a year we had a community of more than 660 people. Soon I’ll begin giving speeches and interactive talks that will teach people how to reach autistic kids. There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about autism that we wish to eliminate. Instead of isolating those with autism, we need to find ways of integrating autistic people into society. The best aspect of Sounds of Autism is that we are a voice for those who have none!"
Barrientos will use the proceeds from donations and fundraising events to pay for memberships to Balance the Spectrum of Autism, a biofeedback program designed by the performance expert Deborah Dubree. Using scientifically proven methods, Balance the Spectrum teaches people how to ease the stress for both parents and children that is associated with autism spectrum disorders.
"Our goal is to make a difference in families’ lives and give them hope for the future."
Cricket has lived in Arizona since 2006. "What I like about Arizona is that it’s a relatively laid-back environment. My life in Chicago was much more fast-paced. I say that I’ve pre-retired, since now I have more time to pursue my interests!" Her leisure activities, besides working with her son, include supporting her daughter who plays competitive volleyball. Cricket also plays the piano and writes music.
As a hard-working manager of a successful restaurant, Cricket Barrientos is clear about her goals: "I’ve done research on what many nonprofits actually spend on those truly in need. Usually there is a top-heavy administrative cost, a small amount going to research and development, and the remainder going towards helping actual people. My promise is to devote the vast majority of our income to those most in need of our help, with very little going to administrative costs. My solemn commitment is to watch the bottom line and deliver the most help possible for those with autism!"
What are your local volunteer activities?
American Legion Auxiliary Member, Volunteer for all Local Charity events Z’Tejas caters food to in our community.
Who inspired you to give back to your community?
My family; my parents were members of the Elks club for over 47 years. I went door to door when I was 9 years old to collect money for the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and now I have an autistic son who has grown up with autism who I feel has not had a voice. My hope is to change this and become his voice through Sounds of Autism.
Which fundraising event is your favorite?
The Independent Motorcycle Ride sponsored by Independent Motorcycles during the Kickoff of AZ Bike Week.
Carmine’s in Chicago on Rush
Whom do you most admire, and why?
My Boyfriend Kevin and our kids, they are so loving, polite, happy and helpful. I could not ask for a better family.
If your life were a movie, who would you want to play your part?
Goldie Hawn or Meg Ryan
Do you have any pets?
Two dogs: Reese our Boxer, and Chigo our rescue dog, half Boxer, half German Shepherd.
Favorite TV show?
The Following, and Secret Millionaire
When you move, what will your home tell its next owner about you?
We were a family who loved to spend time with each other in our pool and in our home. We have a lot of creative family nights.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned through the years?
Build strong foundations so you can always go back to the basics when something is not working.
What was your first job?
Shampoo girl for a hair salon
What is your greatest indulgence?
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Being a single mom and having well behaved kids.
What is your most treasured possession?
A photo of my Dad on the last few days he was here with us.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Compassion for life
I am not a reader. I have always read books by skimming through to find the most important message of the book. I would rather watch a program on TV or hear about a book through talking to people. Dr Seuss’s books are awesome.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
I spend a lot of my time trying not to judge others. Honesty is very important to me, but I understand why people struggle to be honest.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Playing the piano and writing music, watching my daughter play volleyball, spending a date night at a sports event with my boyfriend Kevin, having my extended family over for dinner so I can cook for them.
What would we be most surprised to know about you?
I am very SHY!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
If you believe in something, go after it.
What are some challenges facing nonprofits?
Too many nonprofits spend a lot of their money on paying people to work for them. I am committed to the majority of our money going towards our programs. I started this to give back to those in need and I am committed to keeping that as our most important mission. These autistic families and kids need our help. I am on a mission to make that happen.