Over 900 individuals participated in or supported the first ever Chattanooga Autism Awareness Walk held last Saturday at Coolidge Park. Dave Buck, executive director of the Chattanooga Autism Center said the sight was overwhelming. “The line stretched from River Street down in the park all the way up on the Walnut Street Bridge. I was deeply moved,” said Mr. Buck.
Gina Mitch, walk coordinator and mother of a child with autism coordinated and planned this project for over a year. Her hard work paid off. The committee’s fundraising goal was $30,000 but the unofficial amount raised was almost double, about $58,000.
“We had so many hard working volunteers who helped over the year and dozens more who helped at the event,” said Ms. Mitch. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Event organizers also attributed the success to the Greater Chattanooga region. “The individuals, businesses, and nonprofits from this area really care, and they work together better than any other region I know,” said Mr. Buck. Eight area schools and a dozen private businesses and nonprofits created “teams” for the walk, as did many families. Almost 80 teams were made; the largest had 55 members and raised over $3700. Not everyone joined teams however. Hundreds of individuals and families registered just to be a part of the event.
The participants were treated to music, activities, vendors, an address from Mayor Berke, and a spectacular autumn view of Chattanooga from the pedestrian bridge. Volunteers decorated the bridge with dozens of huge banners that displayed facts about Autism Spectrum Disorders. Smiling walkers trekking the 2.3 mile route learned about Autism while enjoying the fall weather.
“Next year’s walk will be Nov. 8,” Mr. Buck said. “And we’ll be working on making it more fun each time!” said Ms. Mitch.
The funds raised will be used to expand programs and services at the Chattanooga Autism Center. To learn more about the CAC, visit www.chattanoogaautismcenter.org or call them at 423 531-6961.
More photos are on Mark A. Herndon’s Facebook page Lasting Visions Studio.