UPDATE 3.20pm: A SIGN vandalised with graffiti at an Alstonville not-for-profit autism organisation will be replaced free of charge after a huge reaction from the Northern Rivers community.
Since The Northern Star last Friday reported the vandal attack at Autism Spectrum Australia and manager Jodi Rodger's innovative response to it, the organisation has been flooded with support.
When a tagger, using the name "Shaz" spraypainted the sign last week, Ms Rodgers responded by putting up her own sign, pointing out that the cost of repairing the damage would mean a child with autism would miss out on therapy.
A Facebook post linking to the story has had scores of comments on it, been shared 282 times and, as of this afternoon, been seen by more than 28,000 people.
Among the messages of support were offers from Nickel Energy, Gary Cousins from Studioline Signs at Sydney, Signmana at Casino, and several individuals offering to replace the sign for free.
In a post on the Northern Star's Facebook page, Ms Rodgers has said Signmana would be replacing the sign and Studioline Signs would provide the organisation with a new banner. Ms Rodgers thanked Nickel Energy, Tim Wilson, Neil Moran, and Thomas Lynch for also offering to help replace the sign.
"I wasn't expecting this response and we so greatly appreciate your compassion, particularly as Wednesday is World Autism Awareness Day," Ms Rodgers said.
"My note was not in any way an attempt to make Shaz feel bad or to punish this person in any way.
"We were all young once and all of us expressed ourselves with teenage brains (which don't always think of the bigger picture).
"I am sure that Shaz meant no harm to us and was not thinking of the ramifications of tagging.
"It would be great if young people were supported to express themselves in a meaningful and creative manner (which isn't on people's signs) and my response was an attempt to encourage Shaz to do just that."
FRIDAY, MARCH 28: WHEN someone sprayed graffiti over the sign of Autism Spectrum Australia at Alstonville, Jodi Rodgers sprayed back.
Ms Rodgers said the sign, which was only a few months old, was "tagged" on Wednesday night and instead of the usual method of sending a staff member out with chemicals to try and clean it off, she decided to send a message back to the tagger.
"I was trying to engage with the kids," she said. "I wanted to say 'go on, be a bit brighter."
One of the "brighter" things the kids might have tried was to ask Ms Rodgers about it - they might have been given the time and space to make something beautiful.
"We have a huge wall in the office that had tagging on it when we moved in, and I graffitied over the tagging," she said.
With a more constructive approach, "Shaz" and the other taggers might have been able to add to that wall.
Alstonville has a few active taggers and the area around the not-for-profit organisation was popular with them, but Ms Rodgers said, until now, they appeared to have restricted themselves to walls, fences and the occasional garbage bin.
Ms Rodgers said her letter to Shaz the tagger had been well received since it went up today.
"People have been giving me the thumbs up and grannies saying 'that's good love'," she laughed.
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