Nonprofit’s Independent Autism Film Earns National Award

The Autism Society presented Good Friend, Inc. co-founders Chelsea Budde and Denise Schamens the Media Excellence for Video, Print or News Award in July for their middle school autism awareness and peer acceptance film, “Choosing To Be a GFF [Good Friend Forever].”

Budde and Schamens, who were responsible for writing, creative direction and production of the project, debuted the film at a public screening in March at Carroll University, located in Waukesha, Wi. Three days later, Good Friend’s board member and autism consultant Jennifer Townsend nominated the film for the national honor in an essay that she sent to the Autism Society’s headquarters.

“This award isn’t just a nod from the industry’s leading organization, but also an affirmation of our mission and the hard work Chelsea and I have poured into Good Friend for the past four years,” Schamens said.

The award belongs to the 19 students who starred in the film and four technical professionals who worked on the project, Budde and Schamens said.

Budde, who has two children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), and Schamens, whose middle of three children has ASD, incorporated Good Friend in 2007 to create autism awareness, teach acceptance of differences and foster empathy for students with ASDs among their typically-developing peers.

Their first film, “How Can I Be a Good Friend to Someone with Autism?” (aimed at students in elementary school), was released that same year.

Choosing To Be a GFF” was funded in part by a grant from the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin. Research for the film was underwritten in part by a grant from The Waisman Center’s Natural Supports program. Commercial videographer Jeff Howard of J.D. Howard Productions shot the film on location in Waukesha and Brookfield, Wi. Tim Miller of TSM Creations worked with Schamens to edit and produce the film.

The Autism Society presented the award at its 42nd annual National Conference and Exposition on Autism Spectrum Disorders in Orlando.

To buy “Choosing To Be a GFF” or for more information on Good Friend, visit, call Chelsea Budde  at 414-510-0385 or email For more information on the Autism Society and/or the Annual Conference and Exposition, visit


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