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Walk raises funds for autism

Cecilia Glover | Sunday, April 17, 2011

“Walk Now for Autism Speaks,” organized by the Autism Speaks U Club at Saint Mary’s College, raised awareness for autism and promoted the new club Sunday.

Many students, community members and families affected by autism attended the event.

“The cause and cure for autism is unknown. It is important that we get the funding to do research and find a cure for autism,” event coordinator Katrina Mesina said. “This event is also a great way to get people together on campus and promote the Autism Speaks U club.”

Autism Speaks U is a program intended for college students to support their local autism communities and raise awareness and funding for Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the nation’s largest advocacy organization for autism. The organization is devoted to funding research for the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism.

The day began with registration and breakfast sponsored by Studebagels and Sodexo at 10 a.m. Autism Speaks U merchandise, such as t-shirts and sunglasses, were available to be purchased at the event. Families and students enjoyed face painting, inflatables, an Irish Dance Team performance and many more activities before the walk took place.

Dan Ryan, director of the Autism Center at LOGAN and Matt Coleman, an autistic resident of Hannah and Friends, spoke at the event.

“We need to spread awareness for autism everywhere,” Coleman said. “It is important that we raise awareness, not just in America, but Europe, Asia, Africa — everywhere.”

There was also a resource fair consisting of local organizations such as Reins of Life, Inc., Hannah and Friends and the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at LOGAN.

“This event is more for the families than for the students,” Kerri Doherty, director of advertising for the event, said. “It is great that this event allows college students to become advocates for autism, however, the reason we planned this event is for the families who are affected by autism.”

The three-mile walk began on Dalloway’s Green outside the clubhouse and circled around Saint Mary’s campus. The club raised more than $400 in donations on Sunday alone. The club raised more than $5,000 in all of its fundraising efforts, which will go towards Autism Speaks.

“It is great that Saint Mary’s College was able to become a part of Autism Speaks and plan this event to raise awareness,” Deanna Finfrock, mother of autistic son, Nolan Finfrock, said. “It is always a great idea to get college students involved and plan these fundraisers. Nolan and our family had a great time today.”