Tae Winston wanted to find a gift that would not only make Chace, her 11-year-old son who has autism, feel special, but also make a difference by raising awareness about the developmental disorder and raising funds for the Dayton Autism Society.
Winston, owner of The Entrepreneurs Connection in Dayton, said she hatched a plan to buy a food truck in March.
“He’s been dealing with autism for years and I just want him to grow up and know that he matters, too, and give him something to look forward to,” Winston said.
The food truck, dubbed Chace Concessions, will be operated by Winston and will employ people with autism. It will serve pizza, nachos, ice cream, hotdogs, popcorn, snow cones, walking tacos, candy and funnel cakes.
Winston said it will be stationed at different spots across the Dayton area each weekend next spring, with an April debut at the Dayton Autism Society’s 5K Walk/Run for Autism Awareness and Acceptance. Every first Sunday, proceeds from the truck will benefit the Dayton Autism Society.
“We’ll take the food truck all over Dayton and serve the community,” Winston said.
Elizabeth Redmon, president of Dayton Autism Society, said Winston did a “a wonderful thing” on multiple levels by creating the food truck, including raising money for the nonprofit and raising awareness about autism.
“It’s one thing to talk about raising awareness, but to have that visual out there in the community is going to have a huge impact,” she said. “People are going to see the truck and they’re going to connect personally with someone who they know that has autism and it’s going to have a personal connection for them.”
The truck, which includes all the necessary equipment within, comes on the heels of a series of challenges Chace endured and overcame. Last year, he had COVID-19 and was hospitalized for nearly two months. In 2017 and 2019, he had cancer of the trunk, and doctors removed the cancerous cells and put him on medications.
Winston’s friend Tanor Banks, co-owner of Performance Wraps in Miamisburg, said she immediately agreed to help decorate the Chace Concessions food truck free of charge.
“In high school, I volunteered for a special needs cheer team, so you were assigned a buddy and you got to do a whole routine with them ... so that really started my interest in helping kids with autism,” Banks said.
Anthony Thomas, of Taco Street Co. volunteered to help complete the truck, designing the truck and its logo, completing the interior and plumbing and installing a service window and back door. Gary Frazier, of Wirenuttz Electrical Solutions, installed the vehicle’s electric.
Chace, who has non-verbal autism, reacted in surprise to the truck Monday at Performance Wraps, pointing to the illustration of his face on its side.
Winston said the combined effort of all three entities produced something amazing. “It shows you when people work together, what can happen,” she said.
Redmon said Winston using Chace Concessions to employ people with autism is “huge.”
“A lot of people with disabilities have trouble just finding employment, but specifically with autism there’s a stigma sometimes attached that people are fearful to employ people with those disabilities specifically, so it’s a wonderful opportunity that she’s providing to the community,” she said.