Thousands support Edmonton autism community at annual walk
Published Sunday, September 9, 2012 4:51PM MDT
Thousands of Edmontonians came together to walk in support of autism research Sunday.
More than 2,000 Edmontonians laced up and walked at Rundle Park on Sunday as part of the fifth annual “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” event, raising awareness and money for autism research and services.
Organizers say its the biggest walk to date.
“Our goal was to raise $180,000 and I’ll be honest – I know we’re going to surpass it,” said Marcy Oakes-Henschel, events manager for Alberta with Autism Speaks Canada.
A number of teams contributed large amounts of money to the goal, after spending countless hours raising money in different ways.
“Those teams are doing bake sales, garage sales, and hot lunches at their children’s’ schools. These are very passionate, hard-working families, community members, school professionals who are putting their nose to the grindstone and taking their passion to make a difference for autism and creating those big fundraising dollars,” Oakes-Henschel said.
“It shows you the heart of the autism community and what a difference we need to make.”
Autism affects one in 88 children, one in 56 boys.
Those latest figures show diagnosis has jumped 78 per cent in just five years.
“The funds that we raise here are so crucial,” Oakes-Henschel said.
“All the money is going to help so many children and families.”
An autism diagnosis means a stream of appointments, life changes and challenges for families.
Edmonton Mill Woods Beaumont MP Mike Lake knows firsthand what that’s like – his 16-year-old son Jayden was diagnosed with autism when he was just two and a half years old.
“When you see Jayden and get a chance to meet with him, he’s an amazing kid in his own right. He’s got all sorts of skills and abilities and uniqueness’s to his character,” Lake said.
He says parents whose children are diagnosed with autism need to recognize and embrace the differences and uniqueness’s the child will have.
“A diagnosis of autism isn’t as bad down the road, it isn’t as bad as it seems when you first get the diagnosis,” Lake said.
“There are going to be challenges but there’s also a very supportive community out there that is willing to put their arms around you and embrace you as you walk through it.”
Lake said he loves seeing new faces and familiar faces come out to the annual walk, and says the autism community in Edmonton is a very encouraging and tight-knit group.
“There really is a bond that we have. We kind of know what each other is going through. Every person with autism is different but we do share that bond,” Lake said.
More than $216,000 was raised in support of Autism Speaks Canada.