David Conforti was a remarkable and caring young man who made a difference in his community and inspired others through his volunteer work in York Region, Ontario. His family has described him as someone who never thought of his autism as a barrier throughout his life; to him, autism is “a difference that makes us who we are.” David’s contributions directly challenged stereotypes associated with autism as he became a confident self-advocate, even reaching out to encourage other peers to work through their anxieties about getting involved and connecting to others whenever possible. He was recognized by the broader community for his academic and volunteer efforts when he became a recipient of Autism Ontario’s Eleanor Ritchie Post-Secondary Scholarship.
David's eagerness and enthusiasm in academia with the 'Voices of Youth' research project
provided insight on quality of life and inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. His volunteerism and community building brought awareness that "belonging really does matter", people with disabilities have important and intelligent things to say and do and can contribute to society. David aimed to redefine Autism by; coaching soccer to people with disabilities, through his public speaking, and by reaching out to parents of children with Autism so they could see their own children beyond the prognosis.
In order to recognize the importance that volunteering had on David’s life, and to further encourage and recognize volunteerism with community impact among other people with autism, his family, together with the Autism Ontario – York Region Chapter, created The David Conforti - Reach for the Stars Award, as a lasting tribute and in memory of David Conforti’s life.