2,000 families and individuals joined Autism Speaks for its 9th annual Southern New England Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. The walk took place on Sunday, September 18, 2011 at the breathtaking Colt State Park in Bristol, RI. It was a gorgeous day for a walk and the teams came prepared for it with tents, signs, and team spirit that could be felt through the park. In the end, Southern New England families helped raise over $107,000 for Autism Speaks and there are other fall events that will continue the fundraising through the end of the year.
The day began with an amazing performance by Ashmont Station Band and music from our DJ, Derek from Entertainment Specialists. Ashmont Station has a family connection to autism and knows how to get a crowd excited to walk for more research, awareness and services. The community resource fair included The May Institute, Pathways Strategic Teaching Center, SafetyNet by LoJack, Bailey’s Team, The Autism Project, and the Groden Center. Yogibo also attended bringing with them a tent full of examples of their sensory-friendly chairs and products. An inflatable slide and obstacle course as well as bubbles, face painting, popcorn, and cotton candy added excitement to the walk and kept the kids’ activity area buzzing. Special appearances were made by the Providence Bruins mascot “Samboni,” the Pawtucket Red Sox mascot “Paws,” and of course our dear sponsor and supporter Geoffrey from Toys R Us. And there to catch the day in pictures was Jessica McHale from JLM Studios.
Amanda, from our media partner WCTK 98.1 Cat Country Cranston, kicked off our opening ceremonies and thanked the families for sharing their Sunday with us. The opening ceremonies featured speakers from the National Autism Speaks office as well as the Southern New England Walk Chair. Dana Marnane, Vice President of Awareness and Events, addressed the crowd and explained the impact that our local walks have on local funding and communities. She was joined up on stage by her biggest supporter and brother, Brian, who is on the spectrum. Theresa Mahoney, the 2011 Walk Event Chair, thanked the crowd for their support and asked the committee to come up to the stage and the crowd shared in applause for the appreciation of their hard work to make this day happen.
Two teams joined the opening ceremonies to kick off the Walk. Nathan’s Team was the largest team registered before the walk and was given the honor of counting down the Walk start. The highest fundraising team, Zach and Alex’s Team, was given the honor of cutting the ribbon. A friendly face, Geoffrey the Giraffe, from our national sponsor Toys R Us was on hand to lead the walkers at the start line.
Thank you to the 2011 sponsors including Toys R Us, Genzyme, Alphi Xi Delta- University of Rhode Island, Tazza Restaurant and the Boston Red Sox. Pepsi Beverages Company of Cranston provided the water for our event.
Also, a special thank you to all of the volunteers that helped keep this Walk safe and fun for everyone including the Rhode Island Municipal Police Academy cadets for helping with traffic. We cannot list all of our volunteer groups here, but we thank you all for your hard work!
A big thank you to our Walk Committee and volunteers! For more pictures and information about the Walk, please continue to visit the walk website (www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/sne) or our Facebook page (www.facebook.com.)