Restaurant offers quiet seating for families with autistic children

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CHESTERFIELD, MO (KTVI) - It’s just one of the stories happening all around us in St. Louis that you can easily pass you by.

People see it as a small miracle in the effort to take on autism.

The Autism Speaks Chef’s Gala was Wednesday night at the 4 Seasons hotel on Laclede’s Landing.

One of St. Louis’s favorite eating spots was highlighted for doing the little things that led a young man, long silenced by autism, to speak!

He said two words:  Annie Gunn’s.

The gala featured an auction and St. Louis’s top restaurants offering their wares; plus and awards for those making strides in autism research and awareness; people like Will Bolster’s dad.

Will, 18, is autistic.  His dad’s been working for legislative advancements.

“The health insurance bill (mandating certain types of autism coverage) passed in 2011.  The “Able”bill that passed this year that will allow parents of children with disabilities to save in the same way that parents with children going to college can save,” Bolster proudly told FOX 2.

But the biggest news often comes in the little stuff on the edges our lives, like finding a place to eat with an autistic son who’s non-verbal.

The Bolsters tried Annie Gunn’s years ago because it had “snug” seating:  a family booth with a sliding door for privacy.

The staff turned out to be a bigger deal than the door – preparing, even cutting Will’s food just the way he likes it.

Things worked out so well they now eat at Will’s favorite booth, which is by the bar.

But here’s the incredible part, according to his dad.

“On a birthday a couple of years ago, I asked him, ‘where do you want to go to dinner?’  I fully expected him to say nothing…he said, ‘Annie Gunn’s’!”

The family went later that night.

“It was one of the happiest nights of our lives,” Bolster said.

“We like to extend that hospitality to anybody who walks in our door. The Bolsters have been coming here as long as I’ve worked here…they’re part of the family,” said Annie Gunn’s manager, Mark Hinkle.

The gala raised more than $330,000 Wednesday night – about twice as much as when the event started in 2012.