Pittsburgh Contest Winner Looking To Raise Awareness
for Autism and Special Needs Education


CHICAGO, July 12, 2006 — When Vanessa Veltre of White Oak, Pa., won more than $20,000 in cash and prizes from Apartments.com and Budget Truck Rental in the third annual Apartments.com Room to Move Contest, she saw an opportunity for both her and her 28-year-old brother, Vince, to expand their horizons. A rare genetic disease, Mosaic Trisomy 2P, has left Vince non-communicative with a combination of autism and epilepsy; he seldom has the opportunity to explore and live in housing outside of his boyhood home.  As the Apartments.com Room to Move Contest grand prize winner, Veltre will soon be moving out of her parents’ house and into her own apartment where she plans on having Vince as a regular visitor.

      “Winning the contest not only means freedom for me but also freedom for my brother,” said Veltre.  “My parents do such a good job caring for him but it would be nice to give them a break and give my brother a chance to expand his world to include my new apartment.”

      Veltre will use any media opportunities as a contest winner to raise awareness of autism and music therapy for the treatment of developmental disorders.  According to the Autism Society of America, the diagnosis and treatment of autism-related illnesses has increased 172 percent since 1990 and more than 90 percent of the $90 billion in annual healthcare costs is spent on adult autism services.  Furthermore, two-thirds of lifelong care costs can be reduced with early diagnosis and intervention.  As a music therapist for the Craig Academy, an elementary, middle and high school program that treats children with severe emotional and behavioral disorders, Veltre can attest to the benefits of early diagnosis in helping autistic children and their families. 

      Veltre won the contest and the votes of thousands because of an essay she sent to Apartments.com that described her living situation with her parents and brother. Her essay told of listening to Barbra Streisand all day, every day as she is Vince’s favorite artist. Vince is happiest when her music, particularly her Christmas album, is playing on every radio in the house.  Even Barbra Streisand can’t listen to that much Barbra Streisand but Veltre is happy that her music can bring such delight to her brother. 

      As part of her grand prize, Veltre will splurge on an iBook to help her record lesson plans for her students and will use the HGTV room makeover to convert her former bedroom into a studio for the voice lessons her mother teaches.  When she moves into her new apartment, Veltre will finally be free of Barbra Streisand, if only temporarily.

      “Streisand music is good in small doses, so I won’t mind keeping some of her albums around for my brother’s visits,” said Veltre.