Due to overwhelming community criticism, Chili’s has cancelled an autism fundraiser event that was scheduled to occur Monday, April 7 for National Autism Awareness Month. For the event, the nationwide restaurant chain of more than 1,200 locations promised to donate 10 percent of its “qualified” sales that day to the National Autism Association.
Although it seemed like the perfect way to feel good about those baby back ribs, some customers got smart about the fine print and looked into this do-good marketing campaign. It turns out, the money was going toward an organization that continues to support the medically debunked link between autism and vaccines.
Here is the particular statement of issue on the National Autism Awareness website (although specialists in this field take issue with a few of the “causes” listed on this page):
“The National Autism Association believes: Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.”
Chili’s regularly hosts Give Back Events, but this month, customer feedback started to steamroll Chili’s social media channels, starting as early as April 1. Hundreds of people took to Twitter and Facebook, criticizing Chili’s for aligning with an organization that continues to perpetuate a theory the medical community has previously debunked.
At approximately 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 6, Chili’s officially announced it was cancelling the event, taking to all social media channels to soothe concerns of community members there.
While we remain dedicated to giving back, we are canceling the 4/7 Give Back Event based on feedback from our guests. http://t.co/TpBQO8Hr04— Chili's Grill & Bar (@Chilis) April 6, 2014
Here is Chili’s announcement on Facebook that the fundraiser was cancelled:
The National Autism Association posted this response to their Facebook page, thanking “Chili’s for taking a chance on us.”
What’s your take on this fundraiser controversy?Chelsea Rice is a health producer for Boston.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaRice.