The Ritchie Family Fund – leaving a lasting gift to Autism Ontario

Eleanor and Jim Ritchie, 1987
Monica Richardson, Fund Development Manager, Autism Ontario, 2 minute read

Eleanor and Jim Ritchie were long-time supporters of Autism Ontario, back as early as the 1970s, when Autism Ontario, founded in 1973,  was called the Ontario Society for Autistic Children.  They had four children – Elizabeth, Charlie, David and Paul, who was autistic.  Years before Autism Ontario was offering the broad set of family events, services  and supports as they do today, the grassroots organization was for many families a source of companionship, socializing and being with others who ‘understood what it was like for a family.’ That need for belonging and community still exists today. 

Annually, The Eleanor Ritchie Post-Secondary Education Scholarship is awarded to students on the autism spectrum. This award is named after Eleanor Ritchie, a former schoolteacher, and a long-standing member of Autism Ontario, in recognition of her dedication and support for individuals with autism.   

Fast forward to the 21st century, and their involvement continued.  Eleanor promoted our fundraising efforts far and wide through her network, her niece Christine Dade served on the Board of Directors, and the Toronto Chapter helped with various programs.   

Today, we are both humbled and grateful to announce The Ritchie Family Fund, thanks to endowments received from both Eleanor and her son Paul’s estates.  Because of their belief in the vision  - Best Life, Better World, Making Autism Matter- and the mission – Creating a supportive and inclusive Ontario for Autism -  they wanted to leave a gift to ensure the important work continues, for more than 145,000 people in this province on the  autism spectrum. 

“It will be a wonderful tribute to my parents and Paul as well as their history with the organization that they helped to found.  An organization that provided them with support at a time when no one knew what Autism was.  I now consider my parents to be part of the grassroots organization.  I still remember all of the “original” families and the wonderful bond that they had with each other.” Elizabeth Scott, daughter and sister. 

This new fund will be used to support autistic adults.  Annually, a committee comprised of staff members, adults on the spectrum and Ritchie family members, will meet and discuss where funding is most needed for our adult population, and together agree on how best to use the money. 

“Thank you for setting up the Ritchie family legacy fund in memory of my Dad, Mom and Paul. 

I appreciate you are concentrating on the adults with autism as that was a worry before Paul went into Kerry’s Place (John Michael) group home.” David Ritchie, son and brother. 

The Ritchie Family decided to make a significant impact long before Eleanor and Paul left this earth, and now they and their family  will be remembered for their generosity for years to come.  You can read more about the history of Autism Ontario here, since its inception in 1973 as the Ontario Society for Autistic Children, and consider creating your own legacy. 

Starting today, you can help keep sustain this funding, by selecting it in our drop-down menu and making a donation.  You will help the Ritchie family legacy live on in the adults they will continue to support. 

If you’re interested in knowing more about leaving a gift in your will/estate to Autism Ontario, please contact Sarah Morison, Fund Development and Community Outreach Director at

DISCLAIMER: This document reflects the views of the author. It is Autism Ontario’s intent to inform and educate. Every situation is unique and while we hope this information is useful, it should be used in the context of broader considerations for each person. Please contact Autism Ontario at or 416-246-9592 for permission to reproduce this material for any purpose other than personal use. © 2021 Autism Ontario 416-246-9592