Stepping Out for Autism
A little rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the many participants in the 3rdAnnual Walk for Autism hosted by RiverView Health on April 21st. People of all ages walked, toddled, and jogged around UMC’s Lysakker gym for a total of 1.5 miles to represent the 1.5 million people diagnosed with Autism. April is National Autism Awareness month.
“It’s wonderful to see families and friends come together for a fun, relaxed event for the purpose of raising awareness and learning more about Autism,’’ said event organizer Andrea Reynolds. Reynolds is a speech-language pathologist at RiverView’s East Grand Forks location. Reynolds was joined by many RiverView employees in making the annual event a success. Support from the community also played a big part in the event.
Crookston’s Christine and Elizabeth Erdman kept the crowd happy with their balloon creations. Children played on RiverView Rehab Service’s River Stones, had their faces painted, and played a variety of games with high school volunteers from Fertile-Beltrami Public School’s Minor League, a group promoting healthy decision making by youth. Crookston High School’s Leo Club also helped with the event. Bjorn the Therapy Dog was a big hit with the attendees. Bjorn’s owner, Cathy Forgit, spoke to the crowd about the training Bjorn went through to become a therapy dog. And tears flowed as a video presentation played on what it’s like to live with Autism. The presentation featured 4-year-old Lucas Olson. Lucas was diagnosed with Autism over a year ago. But there were no tears shed by Lucas. He was more interested in the balloons lining the walking path as he made his way around the gym.
Premier sponsors contributing to the event were Hugo’s and Bauer Honey. Other contributions were made by AmericInn, Happy Joe’s, Heart and Hands Massage, KROX Radio, Montague’s Flower Shop, New Horizon Foods, Seven Clans Casino, Christine and Elizabeth Erdman, Crookston American Legion, Bremer, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Northwestern Mental Health Center, J.R. Simplot Company, Polk County Public Health, Lakshore Electric, Erickson Family Dental, Shear Sisters, Olson Truck Lines, Erskine Iron, Sandbridge Properties and Johnstad Farms.
More than $6,000 was raised at the event, with all of the money staying in the area to provide regional education, training opportunities, and other Autism awareness events. One of those events will be the May 10th presentation “Outsmarting Explosive Behavior and Practical Solutions to Stabilize Students with Classic Autism’’. The full-day workshop will feature Judy Endow, MSW, who maintains a private practice in Madison, Wisconsin, providing consultation for families, school districts, and other agencies. Besides having autism herself, she is also the parent of three grown sons, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.
American Federal Personal Banker Christine Erdman and her daughter Elizabeth volunteered their time to make balloon creations at the 3rd Annual Walk for Autism.