Family Initiative Awarded $250,000 by the Golisano Foundation

Grant provided in support of Thrive Academy, a private autism specialty school, is the largest single grant provided by the Golisano Foundation in Southwest Florida


Cape Coral, Fla., (May 8, 2024) – Family Initiative, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing family-centered compassionate support, innovative programs and evidence-based therapies to children, teens and young adults impacted by autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is thrilled to announce it has received a grant of $250,000 to help create a new and innovative autism specialty school for middle and high school students. The Golisano Foundation is one of the nation’s largest foundations dedicated to supporting programs for people with intellectual disabilities and a big supporter of the autism community in Southwest Florida.

“We are beyond excited for this generous donation from the Golisano Foundation. The support provided is more than a financial investment in our educational programs, it also represents belief in our organization’s grassroots approach to building a continuum of care for the autism community here in Southwest Florida. It is equally impactful to our families and organization,” said President and Co-Founder David Brown, LCSW.

“We are very pleased to provide this grant to Family Initiative to make essential renovations to two buildings on the Thrive Academy campus and better accommodate students with autism spectrum disorder,” said Erica Dayton, Executive Director of the Golisano Foundation. “This is the largest single grant we have provided to any organization in Southwest Florida. It will help Family Initiative make important improvements including dividing classrooms into smaller rooms, adding sensory rooms, upgrading utilities, and enhancing hurricane safety features. We commend Family Initiative for providing high quality, evidence-based clinical services, and a continuum of programmatic care for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families in Southwest Florida.”

“This funding is such a huge step for us as we build out a unique educational, vocational, and life skills environment to ensure every student is provided with what they need to thrive,” said Co-Founder Anjali Van Drie, MA, BCBA, LCSW.

Family Initiative piloted Thrive Academy in the 2023 school year, with the support of a $5 million investment by the State of Florida that helped acquire the campus for the new school. Demand for alternative education settings is incredibly high. Enrollment is open for the upcoming school year and spots are filling up quickly. Thrive Academy offers middle and high school students an individualized learning environment focusing on academic goals, and also vocational training, life skills training and experiences, and wrap around clinical support.

Family Initiative is the leading ASD provider in Southwest Florida, offering a continuum of care through early screenings, social skills programs, family support programs, clinical services, workforce programs and community education for families across Southwest Florida.  In 2023, Family Initiative served over 2600 children and continues to grow to meet the needs of the autism community. Thrive Academy was created as a direct result of the requests from parents across the region.

To learn more about Family Initiative, the services they offer and their work in the community, visit or call 239-910-0712.

About Family Initiative

Established in 2015, Family Initiative, Inc. is a Florida-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to supporting children with autism and strengthening their families. Its team of clinicians serves children from compassionate, personalized approach through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Occupational Therapy (OT) services, and offers autism play groups, teen meetings, parent education, community conversations and more. In addition, the organization provides child welfare caregiver training and support through its Family Impact Program. Visit or find Family Initiative on Facebook and Instagram at @FamilyInitiative and on X at @FI_Inc.

The Golisano Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the U.S. dedicated to making the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Foundation is devoted to opening doors to opportunity, changing negative perceptions and stereotypes, and forging unprecedented partnerships to ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have pathways to personal dignity, independence, and the best possible expression of their abilities and talents throughout their lifetimes. Founded in 1985 by Tom Golisano—entrepreneur, philanthropist, civic leader, and founder of Paychex, Inc. —the Foundation “imagines the possibilities,” advocating for families, fighting for their dignity, and giving people with IDD the opportunity to thrive in their communities. With more than $60 million in gross assets, it awards about $3 million annually to non-profit organizations in Western New York and Southwest Florida.