A special tailgate party was held prior to the Feb. 1 boys basketball game at Grove City High School.

A special tailgate party was held prior to the Feb. 1 boys basketball game at Grove City High School.

The event was a part of the school's third annual Autism Game, an autism awareness fundraiser.

Members of the school's National Honor Society mingled and played games with autistic children from the community.

"It's become an event that is important for our school, our students and our community," said Grove City High School Principal Mike Starner.

This year's effort raised nearly $3,800, which will be donated to Autism Speaks and the central Ohio chapter of the Autism Society of Ohio.

"I'm so pleased with the response not only from our students and staff, but our community as well," Starner said. "Grove City is a very charitable and hospitable place. If someone reaches out asking for help, our students and community answer the bell, always."

In just three years, the high school has raised about $14,000 through its Autism Game events, he said.

Each second-period class was asked to collect money for the cause, Starner said. The class collecting the most money won a lunch provided by Raising Canes.

Pickerington Central High School, Grove City's opponent on Feb. 1, also participated in raising funds, he said.

The top three classes that raised money at each school were able to pick a representative to participate in a chicken-finger eating contest held just before the basketball game, Starner said.

"We try to make this a really fun event," he said.

The annual fundraiser is held toward the end of January or early February, after students get back from their holiday break, Starner said.

"We've played a different school each year, but I would like to arrange it so we can participate with the same school, perhaps one of our rivals, each year," he said.

Autism "is a tremendously important cause," Starner said. "Studies show that about one out of every 110 children are now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

"It's an issue that effects just about everybody," he said. "Just about all of us has a family member or knows somebody who has autism."

Starner said as pleased as he is with Grove City's first three fundraising efforts, he would like to see the program grow next year.

"I'm really proud with the job our National Honor Society and other students have done," he said. "And we're grateful for the community's support."