Families, organizations, and businesses have already began forming teams and registering as participants for the Chattanooga Autism Awareness Walk scheduled for Nov. 8.
Last year’s inaugural walk drew 900 participants and raised $58,000. “The parent volunteers had been working hard for over a year and were overwhelmed when the walk exceeded all their expectations”, stated Dave Buck, Executive Director of the Chattanooga Autism Center.
The goal was to raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders; a condition now found in 1 out of 68 children. Dozens of businesses and schools created teams and walked along side families in support. The Walnut Street Bridge was lined with “Autism Fact” banners like, “People with Asperger's possess average to above average intelligence.” Walkers and others in the community learned about Autism as they walked the bridge.
Last year’s success has led to individuals and teams already registering for the 2nd annual walk this fall. “We wanted to get Team Maecie started now so we can spend more time getting as many members as we can”, said DeeJay Haas, a parent of a daughter with autism.
The walk begins again at Coolidge Park. “Kids activities will be tripled this year and there will be many more prizes this year”, said Gina Mitch, Walk Coordinator. Businesses like Service Electric and Arcadis are early and generous sponsors and others are expected. Sunny 92.3 will be running free promos and walk teams have already began to form. An example of a large new team is “Cops for a Cause”, made up of law-enforcement team created by the sheriff’s department in conjunction with the Crisis Intervention Training program. “Autism Facts” banner sponsorships have jumped as well.
100% of the proceeds raised will go to support local autism programs created by families and adults at the Chattanooga Autism Center (CAC), a nonprofit 501c3 organization. The CAC is a local parent-driven resource center and clinic and its volunteers are charge of the walk. The funds also keep the center open and available for the community.
“People should sign up now and help encourage others to support their cause”, said Gina Mitch. The group is shooting for over 1200 participants this year and looking to raise $60k for local autism programs.
For more information on the event, volunteer and/or sponsorship opportunities, people should visit www.chattautismwalk.com. or call Gina Mitch (Event Chair) at 779-8562 or Dave Buck (CAC Executive Director) at 531-6961.