Few models today are quite as ubiquitous, it seems, as Jacquelyn Jablonski, who has lent her sharp features to labels as diverse as Victoria’s Secret and Céline, but the dark-haired New Jersey native says the one cause she really wants to put a face on is autism. For over a year, Jablonski has been working with the organization Autism Speaks to raise awareness of the issue, even helping to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange exactly a year ago today to mark World Autism Awareness Day with her younger brother Tommy (above, with Jablonski), who was diagnosed at the age of two.

Jablonski admits that growing up with a sibling with autism was difficult, but refuses to complain, insisting instead that it helped make her stronger. “When he was first diagnosed, I had no idea what it meant,” she explains. “He had many different obsessions and random outbursts in public because he had no other way to say what he wanted to. That was definitely hard for my family, but I think it made me and my sisters very independent at a young age, and it also made us really compassionate towards others. I think it made our family even closer. We have a very strong relationship, and I think a lot of that is because of Tommy.”

Still, Jablonski emphasizes the rising importance of autism awareness, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent report that one in sixty-eight American children now have autism, up a shocking thirty percent since 2012. She brings her passion and drive to her second annual Night for Autism tomorrow with a silent art auction and cocktail reception at Milk Gallery in New York. Jablonski says she has both expanded and focused the event this year, using the experience she gained putting together her first fundraiser last summer. “Last year, I had no idea what I was getting into,” she laughs. “I was very involved in everything because I wanted it to be perfect, and I want it to be bigger and better this year.”

Nearly fifty photographic prints will be available as part of the silent auction, with all proceeds going to Autism Speaks, which works to support research as well as outreach for individuals with autism and their families. But even guests without a winning bid will, Jablonski hopes, take home something even more valuable. “Everyday tasks that we take for granted, like just brushing our teeth, are difficult for a kid with autism,” she says. “I just want to explain to people that this issue is serious and needs our attention. I hope I can educate people and just show them how it is.”

To purchase tickets to A Night for Autism or to donate, please visit Events.AutismSpeaks.org/Jacquelyn. Photography by Eric Guillemain.

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