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Mason Gray as Gary Pinkel

Boy’s Halloween Costume Triggers Heightened Awareness of Autism and The Thompson Center

Last week media outlets picked up the story of Mason Gray, a nine-year-old Mizzou fan and member of the Thompson Center family. The media frenzy started when Mason dressed up as Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel for Halloween. Photos of “Mini Pinkel” barreled across social media, eventually leading to a personal invitation to meet Coach Pinkel and the team.

However, Mason and his family are not strangers to the University or Columbia. Mason’s mom, Jennifer Gray, is an MU alum, and credits that bond with bringing her to the Thompson Center back in 2006 when Mason was first diagnosed with autism. “We live in Kansas City and explored other options, but at that point, time sensitivity was a big factor. Knowing people here at MU; knowing the right questions to ask; we just had more resources here at MU and we decided to come to the Thompson Center,” Jennifer says. Mason still visits the Thompson Center twice a year, Jennifer is involved in Thompson Center volunteer work and Mason’s grandfather, Tom Davis, serves on the Thompson Center Foundation and Advisory Boards.

“When all the media coverage began,” Jennifer says, “We knew we wanted to bring the Thompson Center into the discussion. It’s been wonderful for Mason to be able to put a face on autism for people who might not be aware of autism and the incredible work being done at the Thompson Center.” Jennifer says she has already heard from other families who have made appointments at the Thompson Center since seeing Mason’s story. “Bringing awareness to autism and the Thompson Center is bigger than any Tiger touchdown for us. Kids with ASD are remarkable, and the Thompson Center is world-class, a great resource and worthy of great praise,”

To see a video on this story, click here.