Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 | 7:45 p.m.
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When Mindy Rice’s youngest son, Dylan, was 2 years old, she could tell something was wrong.
His speech hadn’t developed. Some doctors told her that it was nothing to worry about, but Mindy couldn’t ignore her gut. A mother knows.
Three years later, Dylan was diagnosed with autism.
The exhaustive trips to the doctor, endless research and sleepless nights trying to find an answer during that time inspired Mindy and her husband, UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice, to form the Dave Rice Foundation.
“Just getting to that point, to have the diagnosis is extremely frustrating. It’s confusing,” Mindy Rice said. “And unfortunately, the three years that it took for the diagnosis was a cake walk compared to what was about to come.”
At a news conference Thursday, Dave and Mindy Rice shared the details that led the establishment of their nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to the education and support of health initiatives. The group’s first focus is developmental disorders such as autism, a cause that has touched several in the UNLV basketball family.
In addition to Rice, assistant coach Heath Schroyer and UNLV Senior Associate Athletic Director D.J. Allen both have children affected by autism.
Allen and former Rebel Greg Anthony will serve on the organization’s board of directors, along with the Rices and local philanthropist Donna Findlay. Mindy Rice will run the day-to-day operations.
Dylan is now 9 years old, and the Rices also have another son, Travis, who's 14 years old. Mindy said that she and Dave had discussed this for several years, but his move from an assistant at BYU to head coach at his alma mater sped up the talks because they now had a bigger platform.
“Shortly after we moved back to Las Vegas, we saw this as an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, and to bring about attention to the needs of those who are affected by autism,” Dave said.
The organization’s first planned event is “An Evening with Dave Rice,” on May 4 at the Palms. Tax-deductible donations can be made at the event or anytime at DaveRiceFoundation.org. There will be an auction and plenty of time to mingle with Rice and other special guests, but one of the primary objectives, Allen said, will be to talk about autism. Because providing information about and openly discussing the disorder should help to remove the stigma surrounding it.
“Going back,” Mindy Rice said, “I wish that our doctor could have given me a name, a phone number, a pamphlet, anything that would be a road map that would give us a starting point to what came next in our journey through autism.”
The Dave Rice Foundation, Mindy Rice said, will strive to be that road map. It’s partnering with the UNLV Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders and will work with the myriad Nevada and national organizations that also support this cause.
As the foundation develops, Dave Rice said, they want to tackle many other charitable causes. But it made sense to start with the one they deal with every day.
Autism can be particularly frustrating for a parent because there’s not an exact cure. It’s very common — one in 110 kids and one in 75 boys will be affected, according to the foundation — but every child reacts differently to treatment and just diagnosing it can be an arduous process.
The Rices know this well, and that’s why they want to help in any way they can.
“If the efforts from those involved in this foundation can just help one parent to help their son or daughter get the treatment and therapies that they need sooner,” Mindy Rice said, “then it will all be worth it.”