Step Up for Autism a success
Lots of people braved the rainy weather and put their best foot forward to take part in the third annual Step Up For Autism Walk. The event took place September 22 at The Resource Center’s Administrative Offices on Dunham Avenue in Celoron.
“It’s an important event, because the idea came from parents. It’s a real labor of love,” said Nancy Ingram, TRC’s Assistant Executive Director and a member of the event’s Planning Committee. “It’s a fund-raiser for kids that need the services, and the event allows us to serve a lot more people.”
“The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about autism to the community and especially to those who don’t understand it,” said Cindi Dietzen, a parent and the Committee’s Co-Chair. “Social media played a much greater role this year, and great to see all the people who came out to support us, share the time and spread the word.”
Besides the walk, there were kids’ games, a 50/50 raffle, a Chinese auction, live music from TRC’s Nick Kilpatrick, and a cake auction that raised $603. (The highlight of the auction was the finale, a pumpkin cake in the shape of a pumpkin that brought a winning bid of $155.) Money was also raised through a telethon, with Dr. Kathy Gradel, the Vice President of TRC’s Board of Directors, taking the calls.
Proceeds from the event go to TRC Foundation and support the SUCCESS Program, for youths with autism spectrum disorders, and the Sibshop program, for siblings of children with special needs.
“This is very rewarding. I have goose bumps,” said Julie McCarthy, a parent who is the Committee Co-Chair and a TRC Board member. “All the money raised stays local to ensure the programs will continue.”
“Everyone is affected in some way, or knows someone who is,” she added. “Families feel like they are on an island because no one gets them, and I want people to be aware of us, support us and accept us.”
“It draws awareness to the fact that these children look like typical kids, and acknowledges that they have different abilities,” said Tess Kerzner, TRC’s Director of Children’s Services. “And we need to draw attention to the fact that many of these kids tend to be bullied, and we need to provide a safe environment for them and be kind to everyone.”
Tess also provided some helpful hints for interacting with someone who has autism, including: speak slowly and use simple language; use concrete terms; allow response time; and do not attempt to physically block self-stimulating behavior. She added that children with autism may also lack eye contact, be resistant to touch, have difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, and be sensitive to sounds or light.
“The event creates awareness and provides information, and this is all driven by parents,” said Paul Cesana, Executive Director. “TRC provides the initial support to families, and then families support each other.”
“It also brings awareness to the many different services and programs TRC provides,” said Heather Brown, Assistant Executive Director for Program Operations. “There hadn’t been anything like it in the area, and now that support is here for local families.”
Several individuals and families raised money prior to the event. Leading the pack again this year were Aaron and Crystal Peelman. They raised more than $2,600 for Team Mason in honor of their 5-year-old son, Mason, who has autism.
“This is a great part of our year. We love this event and to show our support for TRC and everything it does for the community,” said Aaron. “Not only does the event support the services and programs, but it raises awareness and educates people about the services. It’s important to keep the programs going.”
“We like to give back. TRC does so much for us,” said Crystal. “We’re very proud of our circle of friends. We’re surrounded by wonderful people, and we’re thankful for their support.”
“You never know when your family will need the services TRC provides, and you may benefit in the future the same way people benefit now,” added Aaron.
Next year’s event is set for Saturday, September 28. For more information, call Tess at 661-1057.