SHIRLEY -- The proposal Shannon Mountford and her two "Blue Crew" Youth Venture partners, Deanna Lunardo and Meghan O'Neil, brought to selectmen Monday night echoes and expands a project Shannon launched on her own last year to raise awareness of autism, a disorder that affects thousands of children, including her twin brother.

Same as last year, selectmen were all for it.

Inspired by her brother, "we want to help those people who don't understand" what autism is, she said. "We want to raise awareness."

To that end, the three Ayer Shirley Regional Middle School eighth-graders aim to "light it up blue" again at Whiteley Park and hang an autism awareness banner across Main Street, with the help of the Fire Department and other adult volunteers. They also plan to hand out blue light bulbs to residents and businesses near the park on Front Street, they said.

They've also been doing some fundraising for the cause and plan to donate proceeds to autism research.

Chairwoman Kendra Dumont offered to help string the lights. "Let us know," she said.

-- M.E. Jones, Correspondent