MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — “Pulling Together” — WCCO-TV’s charity competition — is back this summer.

We are putting Minneapolis against St. Paul in a tug of war across the Mississippi River.

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The winner? Fraser, and the thousands of families it helps each year. Fraser is an organization with seven locations in Minnesota that works with children and adults with autism. Last year, 9,000 Minnesotans benefited from its services.

Autism is a disorder that has become much more prominent in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 1 in 59 children has been diagnosed with autism.

Chucho is 8 years old, and started going to Fraser’s Bloomington Clinic when he was 3. His mother, Gloria Hernandez, says he did not speak his first words until he was 6 years old.

“He didn’t know how to communicate with me when he was still hungry,” Hernandez said.

Chucho and Gloria Hernandez (credit: CBS)

She learned instead to interpret Chucho’s cries, but he began to talk after working with therapists at Fraser.

“The first time when he say, like, ‘Love you Mama,’ oh my God, I’m crying when they see me,” she said.

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Today, Chucho is in the third grade, and is reading at the appropriate grade level.

“From the prevalence, we know the demand is huge,” said Jan Luker, Frasier’s chief operating officer.

Inside Frasier’s seven clinics, children and adults meet with specialists who help them overcome problems with communication, social interactions as well as sensitivity to sights, sounds and textures. Fraser also offers career planning and housing for adults with autism.

“Our vision is that no family will have to travel more than 35 minutes or 35 miles to access Fraser services,” Luker said. “Reduce drive times, more convenience, quicker access. Those are all things we have a goal to achieve.”

The money raised at last year’s Pulling Together enabled Fraser to provide more training to its staff and to make upgrades to the technology the staff uses when working with children.

This year’s Pulling Together is Sept. 8 at Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul. Prospective teams must not exceed 13 members, 2,000 total pounds, and they must fundraise $5,000 for Fraser.

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