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Puzzle-Wrapped TowBoatU.S. Boat Raises Autism Awareness

Family of three aboard their red TowBoatU.S. Islamorada 32-foot puzzle-piece-wrapped response vessel

Capt. Carlos Galindo, Ilene Perez, and Leif Diaz of TowBoatU.S. Islamorada aboard their 32-foot puzzle-piece-wrapped response vessel.

Boaters in Islamorada, Florida, saw a puzzling sight when TowBoatU.S. Islamorada’s boat showed up to assist in April. That’s because Ilene Perez and Carlos Galindo, owners of TowBoatU.S. Islamorada, wrapped the largest vessel in their fleet with a unique design in honor of Autism Awareness Month. The boat, a 32-foot Ocean Master, was covered with puzzle pieces, representing the complexity of autism and the unique qualities of each person affected by it. Perez’s son, Leif Diaz, 17, is one of the estimated one in 36 children with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Perez explains, “Just like all the moving parts on a boat, there are many things to learn, to consider, and to work toward once a loved one is diagnosed with autism. It’s a challenge that requires community, and it is so rewarding to see awareness and sensitivity to this topic move forward by leaps and bounds.”

The family’s goal was to raise awareness of autism within their local Florida Keys community and beyond, especially with National Autism Awareness Day, April 2.

The family was also giving back to the community. They partnered with Island Dolphin Care, a local organization that provides animal-assisted, motivational, and educational programs to children and adults with special needs and their families. The organization has also developed a program specifically for participants with autism, providing alternative approaches to the diagnosis. Perez and Galindo donated a portion of the fees from each tow they conducted during April to Island Dolphin Care to help others use the resources that Leif has benefited from.

John Condon, BoatU.S. vice president of Towing Services, praised the family’s efforts: “We are proud that Ilene and Carlos are using their boat as a platform to bring attention to an important topic like autism awareness. They are constantly out on the water and are known by so many boaters in their community that will know why their boat looks a bit different. It’s sure to get people thinking.”

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Erin Spindle

Contributor, BoatUS Magazine

Erin is BoatUS's membership coordinator.