DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A well-known Dayton entrepreneur is making strides to raise awareness about autism while simultaneously creating opportunities for her own son and other young people who have autism.

Tae Winston, owner of the Entrepreneurship Connection and Entrepreneurship Marketplace, on Monday gifted her 11-year-old son Chace a food truck that will serve American fare, including nachos, hotdogs and pizza. However, unlike most food trucks that have a sole purpose of serving delicious food, this mobile business will serve a bigger purpose that involves the community.

“I’ve always been one to spread autism awareness first,” she said. “A lot of people still don’t know about it. He suffers from it 24/7. He’s nonverbal and he has struggles and I wanted a mobile vehicle where people could be like, ‘Oh, what’s autism?’ And read about it, learn about it and support it.”

Winston said through watching her own son endure a number of health challenges, she wanted to find a way to honor his strength and help other kids and families who deal with similar circumstances.

“I came up with the vision after talking to my best friend, Anthony Thomas, who owns Taco Street Co.,” she said. “My son almost passed from COVID last year and he’s had some serious surgeries and I wanted to do something special for him just to show him that he’s worth it and you can be anything you want to be.”

Winston later purchased the truck and all of the equipment to go inside. From there, the community stepped in, completing the construction, running the electricity, and wrapping the truck with a logo.

“Well I wanted to give back,” said Anthony Thomas, owner of Taco Street food truck and Winston’s friend of nearly 15 years. “Chace is such a good kid, and there’s no better gift than giving your time. So that was just everything for me.”

With his prior knowledge of food truck operations, Thomas ran the plumbing in vehicle. Then he recruited another friend, Gary Frazier, owner of Wirenuttz Electrical Solutions, to help with the electrical work.

Finally, Performance Wraps applied the design on the exterior free of charge.

“Autism is something that I am very familiar with,” said Tanor Banks, co-owner of Performance Wraps. “I’ve actually done two programs previously where I was assigned a buddy — one through cheer and then one through college — where I got to take them everywhere [and] just hang out, go to dinner, things like that. Just be a really good friend to them. So to have another way to get involved with autism and supporting the cause and raising awareness was…a no brainer for me.”

Winston said beyond simply educating the community about autism, proceeds from the truck will directly benefits those with the diagnosis. During the summer, Winston said she plans to hire children with autism to do small tasks like bagging and handing out orders with their parents’ consent.

“I feel like sometimes it’s hard for autistic kids to find a job or for people to take them [seriously], so I just want to give them the opportunity to feel like they’re someone,” said Winston.

Additionally, on the first Sunday of each month, 70 percent of the proceeds collected for the day will be donated to the Autism Society of Dayton.

Banks added she hopes the interactions that will be had at the new business will educate the public on some of the misconceptions about the condition.

“The biggest misconception I see is just treating them like they don’t understand things,” she said. “I had a buddy one time that was fully verbal and my second buddy didn’t talk at all. So just figuring out ways to communicate that make sense. Figuring out what they like, what they don’t like and not pushing their boundaries, letting them approach you. Just treating them like a friend.”

Sponsors offered supportive words and congratulations to Chace on his new business venture, and gave words of encouragement to other families living with autism.

“I just want to tell Chace that he deserves this and this will make him a better person,” said Thomas.

“If you believe in you and whatever you want to do, you can do it,” added Frazier, “Just don’t take no for an answer.”

Winston said she is currently in talks with Dayton Children’s Hospital about setting up on their property when the truck opens this spring. She plans to reach out to a number of other establishments as well regarding contracts for serving items across the Miami Valley.

To learn more information about the new business or to inquire about signing your child up to work this summer, dial (937) 540-5286.