The Third Annual Autism Awareness Walk was a bigger success than ever with over 200 people estimated to have participated throughout the afternoon and raising over $3,000 for local autism trainings. Some folks walked in the gymnasium and others took to the Skyview track where they enjoyed a beautiful spring day under sunny skies. There were different activities set up in the gym for children to do as well as arts & craft booths in the commons area. Lots of information was available for people to take and share about Autism. "We're making real progress when it comes to awareness of Autism and the turn out here today is very encouraging for us," said event organizer Tonja Updike, with the Autism Society of Alaska, "Education is the key and schools and infant learning now are learning more about it and realizing the Autism is a spectrum and not all autistic children bang their heads against the wall or have the same symptoms that the movie Rain Man made known," she added.
According to Updike there is still no conclusive evidence as to the cause of why people have autism or what can be done to prevent it, "It's still a major concern, but as awareness and understanding increases we are better able to help families understand what autism is so that we can help that person become as independent as possible as they grow. As a parent of a child on the spectrum I am hyper aware of what my child and my family can or can't do in the community. Now those things are being stretched for instance last year my child walked in the Kenai Parade, three years ago I wouldn't have thought that was possible. There are a lot of events that community members and families may not think are good fits for them but may be for instance my son loves to walk and is very successful when walking, it's the waiting that's challenging, but we adapt for that and have a great time, so it comes down to looking for opportunities that work best for the child is what it comes down to," she said.
Some of the different vendors who were at the Autism Awareness Walk to share information on what they offer for the community and state were Frontier Community Services Infant Learning Program, Hope Community Resources, Alaska Autism Resource Center, and Stone Soup Group. Numerous businesses as well as individuals sponsored and contributed to the event. Items that were donated were used for door prizes, raffles, and silent auction. The biggest raffle was the Apple IPAD donated by Sterling Happenings Day Care Center and Chez Moi. "I want to off a huge thank you to the many people who came out this year, including those who created large teams and all our volunteers. This walk is a fundraiser and community awareness event and each year it becomes bigger and better," said Updike.
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