Colourful crowds descended on Essendon, just out of Melbourne, on Saturday night for Equal Access for Autism’s annual fundraising gala.

The dress code was ‘formal with a dash of colour’, and over 1000 guests went all out to show their support for the cause. In fact, colour was everywhere: the rainbow-toned programs adorning the tables featured artwork by Dominic Gatto, the young man whose story and experiences started it all for the charity. As told to Danielle Kutchel earlier this year, Equal Access for Autism (EA4A) is raising money to build a space dedicated to autistic teens and young adults, complete with therapy rooms, autism-friendly play spaces, purpose-built bathrooms and even somewhere for parents and caregivers to get coffee and relax.

Guests were treated to a dinner prepared by renowned chef George Calombaris and the Hellenic House Project, while Sam Kekovich MC’d the night’s proceedings. Entertainment was provided by The Unusualist Raymond Crowe, Jack Gatto performing as Elvis, and Absolutely 80s.

The gala was a star-studded event, with Kekovich acknowledging the many Australian icons present in the room as well as those who gave their support in a video presentation. The glittering starpower enhanced the cause, as passionate guests dug deep to raise money to help EA4A achieve its goal. The fundraising tally from the gala has yet to be finalised but is expected to be around $2 million.

Addressing the audience towards the end of the night, EA4A founders Mick and Cheryl Gatto thanked those who have helped the charity so far and gave a heartfelt speech about the charity’s mission.

“We set out to achieve certain goals and do certain things, and we’re going to do it. With your support… we really want to make a difference. And we are going to make a difference,” Mick said.

“We can leave some sort of legacy for our grandson and all the autistic families out there that need this help.”

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