CAMANCHE — Autism affects nearly one in 68 children, amounting to one of the fastest growing serious developmental disabilities in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Because of that, four years ago, Lori Bigwood decided she wanted to raise awareness in Clinton County and since then her group has shined a light on the children and individuals affected by the disorder.
“We actually formed our group in fall 2010,” Bigwood said. “Everyone in our group has a loved one who is affected by autism so we started looking for an autism walk and there really wasn’t anything local here. So we decided to do our own.”
Now, Strides for Clinton County Autism is hosting its fourth annual family walk and 5K race and this year, they are expecting to see the largest participation numbers and fundraising totals in the group’s history.
They have already exceeded last year’s numbers by nearly 100 participants in the pre-registration phase and as the race draws closer, they expect to see those numbers surpass any expectations they had for this year’s event.
“We have 678 pre-registered people, almost 100 more than we were at this time last year,” Bigwood said. “When we started this we never expected the kind of support that we got and each year it just gets bigger and bigger. I know we’ll surpass 700 participants this year. My goal is 800 and I know we’ll get there.”
The walk and race were designed to ignite conversations about autism and the challenges families who are affected by it face on a daily basis. It also is aimed at raising money through registration fees, corporate sponsorship and other fund generators that will benefit local autism programs.
One of the largest benefactors of the Strides for Clinton County Autism family walk and 5K is special education programs in the surrounding school districts.