By Joseph Pratt
The Autism Project of Southern Ohio is presenting its 2014 Walk for Autism event Saturday, April 26, at Millbrook Park in New Boston. The event is more than a walk — with a concert planned, guest speakers arranged, vendors available, games, a car show and more. The event is both a fundraiser and an awareness event, in which all proceeds will go towards the Autism Project.
Money raised stays locally and goes to fund programming for children with autism in ways that don’t include medical expenses. The group strives to provide local children with autism with resources such as clothing, movie tickets and other things to improve the quality of life.
“April is Autism Awareness Month nationwide. So, all month, anyone affiliated with autism has a walk or some kind of event to raise awareness,” Autism Project of Southern Ohio Vice President Mike Bell said. “So, each year, we have that here. We host our walk at 3 p.m. and have a bunch of different events planned that lead up to that time.”
The car show has been taken over by the New Boston Kiwanis Club, which Bell is excited about.
“They are about children as well,” Bell explained. “They are organizing the car show and will be giving out trophies and the whole bit. It is my understanding that the cars will be signing in at 9 a.m. and will be there the whole day.”
The band attending the event is called Midnight Moon and they are a country and classic rock band from South Shore, Kentucky.
Another major event at the walk is a series of baseball games between the District 11 Challenger League. The team is comprised of 6 teams of students and games will start at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
“It isn’t limited to children with autism; we have children in wheelchairs and all sorts of things that will show you what they can do,” Bell explained. “The Challenger League gives them a chance to be a normal child, have fun and be the kid that they are. This really gives the kids a chance to let loose while giving parents a support team and to let them know they aren’t alone.”
Last year’s event brought in around 1,000 people and raised nearly $7,000 for the group. Bell believes that this year will be even larger than what they’ve done in the past.
“I’ve had a lot of people calling about it and I’m getting a lot more vendors,” Bell said. “We had so many sponsors and business names on the back of our shirt this year that we filled the entire shirt with business names.”
Bell has been involved in the group for many years, and attributes his involvement to his 19-year-old son who has autism.
“It is very important because we need to raise awareness of autism,” Bell said. “We need to get new parents of children with autism to come down and see what autism is and meet some of the other kids who have autism and bring awareness to it and let them know that their children may have autism, but it isn’t the end of the world.”
The events begin at 11 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. All events will be held at Millbrook Park and an accessible parking lot can be found next to the New Boston Stadium on Milldale Road.
“I just hope everybody comes out and enjoys themselves while learning about autism,” Bell said.
Joseph Pratt can be contacted at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.