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Bachelors pave way for new autism academy

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany Autism Center's Bid for Bachelors event was a success and the center now has the funds available to build an autism academy, said event organizers.

Kelli Halstead, Bid for Bachelors organizer, said the event boasted an attendance of more than 400 people.

"Our goal was to raise $10,000, which at the time I thought was going to be hard. We ended up raising double that amount," said Halstead.

The March 19 event that took place at the State Theater consisted of an auction of more than 20 bachelors and their unique date packages that included various travel destinations, spa treatments, jewelry and tickets to sporting events.

Halstead said the night's most popular bachelor was Kip Dupree, 31, whose date package included a limo ride to a dinner, golfing and numerous gift certificates for tanning, teeth whitening and hair treatments from local salons. Dupree raised the most money of any bachelor of the night with a final bid of $850.

"The guys were absolutely awesome," said Halstead. "Kip worked really hard and he definitely deserved that price."

The bachelors were escorted by models from Envy who wore some of the clothing boutique's newest items. Envy also raised $200 for awareness by raffling off an outfit from the boutique.

The $20,000 that was raised for the event went to purchase land and a building at 1509 Third Ave. that will soon become an academy designed especially for children with autism and other disabilities.

"We have been working with the property owner for a while and the money we raised at the Bid for Bachelors was the exact amount we needed to get into the property," said Diane Blocker of the Albany Autism Center.

Blocker said the center plans to open the school in May.

"It is going to be very small and very low key for the first year," she said.

The new property will give the center a chance to expand and provide more services to families in the surrounding community. Presently, the center shares a space on the 2100 block of Dawson Road with the Dawson Road Church of Christ.

"The church has been so great to us and gracious to let us use the space, but it will be nice to have a place of our own," said Blocker.

The Albany Autism Center has already gained approval from the Albany City Commission to begin work on the school.

Halstead said the new academy will be able to accommodate more children with disabilities at a lower cost.

"I think God really did have a hand in this because of the support we received for this event. To think that we ended up raising the amount of money we needed was amazing," said the event organizer.