Canisius Awarded Grant from Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Legacy Fund

July 26, 2019
Canisius Awarded Grant from Ralph C. Wilson Foundation

BUFFALO, NY – Canisius University was awarded a $25,000 grant to support “The GRIFFit High-Intensity Exercise Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Western New York” from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Legacy Fund administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The grant was received by researchers in the college’s Department of Kinesiology and Institute for Autism Research (IAR). The funding will allow Canisius to provide a 20-session exercise program for high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during the summer, fall and spring. 

The GRIFFit High-Intensity Exercise Program will be directed by Karl F. Kozlowski, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology. 

“This grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Legacy Fund gives us an opportunity to provide an innovative and effective exercise program that uses sports activities to enhance the athletic skills, physical activity, and health and wellness of high-functioning children with ASD,” said Kozlowski. The program was developed by Kozlowski, Jonathan D. Rodgers, PhD, assistant professor of psychology; James P. Donnelly, PhD, professor of counseling and human services; and Christopher J. Lopata, PsyD and Marcus Thomeer, PhD, co-directors of the IAR.

The exercise program will be held at the IAR at Canisius University and include children, ages 7-12 years, with a diagnosis of ASD from Western New York.  Over the course of one year, three programs will be provided including a five-week summer program and two 10-week after-school programs. As children with ASD are less physically active, more obese and have less opportunity to engage in community and school-based fitness and sport activities than their typically-developing peers, this program provides access to a specially developed program designed to improve the health and wellness of the children. The GRIFFit program is distinctive in that it targets development of fitness in the context of learning basic movements used in sport, coupled with a behavioral treatment to improve the social performance of these high-functioning children with ASD. At present, there are no local or national programs that concurrently address these critical areas for children from this population.

This program will also provide advanced clinical training to more than 15 university students who will be trained to work effectively with high-functioning children with ASD in the areas of sport skill development and exercise prescription and delivery. In addition, families of the participating children will receive training on how to incorporate a physically active lifestyle into daily living. 

Researchers at the IAR are dedicated to training the next generation of researchers and practitioners through advanced academic, research, and clinical and community-based experiences. For more information regarding this program and/or the Institute for Autism Research at Canisius University, visit or call the Office of College Communications at (716) 888-2790.

Celebrating its centennial year in 2019, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo was established in 1919 to enhance and encourage long-term philanthropy in the Western New York community. A 501 (c)(3) organization, the Community Foundation’s mission is: connecting people, ideas and resources to improve lives in Western New York. For 100 years the Community Foundation has made the most of the generosity of individuals, families, foundations and organizations who entrust charitable assets to the Community Foundation’s care. Learn more at

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds were established at the Community Foundation to provide support to four areas that were important to Mr. Wilson: caregivers, community assets, design and access, and youth sports. Endowment funds, like these created to honor Mr. Wilson, are designed to grow over time and provide funding for charitable causes according to a client’s wishes.

Canisius is one of 27 Jesuit universities and the premier private university in Western New York.