The Second Annual Autism Walk of Surry far exceeded expectations Saturday morning in Riverside Park as a large crowd of participants gathered together to share and raise funds to spread the word about autism.
Mount Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran extended her thanks and admiration to participants and organizers for their support of the walk through “extensive collaboration.”
“I’m walking today as part of Team Salvation Army. The fact is we can’t be silent about the things that matter,” said Cochran. “Autism has affected so many lives. Mount Airy is a city of caring and involvement. It helps so many causes.”
Chairman of the Walk Bridget Soots said the group had sold more than 900 shirts before the start of the event. Logos on the shirts this year were designed by students at Franklin Elementary School.
“I expect 1,000 or more participating today,” said Soots. “We have had to expand parking beyond the three lots we had originally set aside and are running the trolley to get participants to and from the walk.” She said it looked like the effort was on track to break the goal for this year of $15,000. This is the second walk by the group on behalf of the Autism Society of North Carolina — Surry County Chapter.
Soots said numbers of children affected nationally have increased from one out of 10,000 ten years ago to one out of 53 being diagnosed with autism.
‘I am so absolutely pleased with the response,” added Soots. “I feel we are getting the word out.” She told the crowd 100 percent of proceeds stay in Surry to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by autism. Proceeds also go toward education for community, family, teachers and emergency services personnel.
“Six years ago my son (Caiden) was diagnosed with autism,” recalled Soots as she spoke to the group.”I was determined to do something about it. The North Carolina Autism Society told me Lisa Jeffreys was who I needed to talk to. It was just us for several months at meetings. I said I know what we can do. We can have a walk. I feel God had a plan for me through this. Today our group averages 30 members. Lisa never gave up. Talking with someone going through the same things makes a difference.”
Soots recognized the efforts of the walk committee and extended her “profound thanks for each of you participating today.” Meteorologist Austin Caviness of WXII 12 was the featured speaker at the kickoff for the 2.2-mile walk. A Zumba fitness class led by Michele Davis was conducted under the park shelter as well.
“We’re for the sun and mighty glad you guys are here. This is a wonderful turnout for something we need to know more about,” began Caviness. “You begin here today raising awareness by sacrificing from your time and this makes a difference. It is what gets things moving in the right direction. There’s a whole lot of love here today. Love in your heart is from the good Lord. The biggest challenge in life is to enjoy the present. There’s a whole lot of people with autism I enjoy hanging out with rather than a lot of what is considered normal now. Remember whatever storms may bring into our life, have faith in the Lord.”
Mascots present for the walk included Sparky the Fire Dog and Ronald McDonald. Perfect Timing Photography by Brooke Gregory provided photos. Vendors participating in the walk included Berard –AITS, UNC-Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, TEECH Center, Amos Cottage, Autism Society of NC-Surry County, Speech Center, Riverwood Therapeutic Riding Center, Robiyn Mims- Talisman Programs, Behavioral Services, Inspirations for Aspirations, LLC, Easter Seals, Life Alliance, LLC and Just Jewelry.
Members of the Mount Police Department were also on hand to register individuals living in Surry County on a form to provide 911 communications information. This helps to alert emergency personnel about individuals with autism at specific addresses before they arrive at the scene.
Persons interested in getting involved in the autism group or a family in need for their diagnosed individuals may contact Lisa Jeffreys at (336) 789-9639 or Bridget Soots at (336) 789-2982 or (336) 786-7355 for information.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.