1,200 families and individuals joined Autism Speaks for its 9th annual Northern New England Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. The walk took place on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at the New Hampshire Hospital Grounds in Concord, NH. With sunny skies, families covered the park with team signs and shirts to show their spirit as well as their own blankets and tents to enjoy the afternoon with their families. Whether it was teams of two or teams of near 100 that attended like the Lindt Chocolate team, it was all to raise autism awareness and celebrate our children. In the end, Northern New England families helped raise over $100,000 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 Gianna Hitsos, a 16 year old young lady who was diagnosed at age 2 and aspires to be the first Broadway actress with autism. The community resource fair included newcomers to the walk including Crotched Mountain School, The May Institute, Speech Therapy Solutions, and Make Them Aware. Yogibo also attended bringing with them a tent full of examples of their sensory-friendly chairs and products. Home Free came out to the walk for the first time as well spreading the word that their bakery produces tasty goodies for children and families with special dietary needs- and they proved it with samples of their delicious cookies for all of the walkers. An inflatable slide and obstacle course as well as bubbles, face painting, popcorn, and the Lindt Golden Bunny car added excitement to the walk and kept the kids’ activity area buzzing.
The opening ceremonies featured speakers from the National Autism Speaks office as well as the New England Chapter. Cathy Kanefsky, Vice President of Field & Chapter Development addressed the crowd and explained the impact that our local walks have on local funding and communities. Erica Giunta, Executive Director of the New England Chapter of Autism Speaks, 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. Epping Stars was the largest team registered before the walk and was given the honor of counting down the Walk start. The highest fundraising team, Alexander’s Autism Avengers, 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 under the balloon arch at the start line.
Thank you to the 2011 sponsors including Toys "R" Us, Wireless Zone, Lindt Chocolate and the Boston Red Sox.
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/nne) or our Facebook page (www.facebook.com.)
The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.