On Sunday, April 6, Miami celebrated the 2014 Walk Now for Autism Speaks at JC Bermudez Park, in the City of Doral. Over 30,000 walkers participated while raising to date over $630,000.
The success of the walk would have not been possible without the leadership and vision of Corporate Walk Chair Manny Gaunaurd, the coordination of Wilson Cristancho, Logistics Chair, and the dedication and tireless effort of the 2014 Miami Walk Committee.
It was a day full of fun and entertainment with an atmosphere of excitement!
Geoffrey the Toys R Us giraffe, TD the Miami Dolphin and Billy the Marlin lead the Miami Walk Now for Autism Speaks in a silver convertible Ford Mustang, joined by over 30,000 attendees who celebrated the highly-anticipated event. The Miami Walk included over 35 service providers and fun-filled children’s entertainment like bounces houses and musical performances by children and teens on the spectrum on stage. Teams enjoyed several special activities on the walk route: from the Mercantil Commercebank Start Line’s energy-pumped dancing by the Miami Marlins street team and music from the Coca Cola van, to Hialeah Gardens’ Marching Band performances before arriving at the Finish Line to music, Team Roll Call, and FIU’s Alpha Xi Delta sorority cheering. The Walk featured heartwarming moments with two teenage boys on the spectrum, a speech about Autism Speaks by self-advocate Alonso Velasquez, the National Anthem performed by Daniel Vega, and the Pledge of Allegiance performed by Brayden Allen.
We were also honored to have the owners of Rising Tide Car Wash join us and be recognized at the Walk with the first-ever Autism Awareness Award. Many of the stage performances were of children and adults on the spectrum, including Spectrum Dance Therapy, Miami Dance Project, City of Doral Feel the Beat Dance Group, Infinity Dance Studio, Glam Studio, Highpoint Academy Coral Way Campus Hip Hop Dancers, Schoolhouse Prep. Wolf Pack Band, Highpoint Academy Coral Way Campus Greyhound Cheerleaders, and Academia Rashel.
Grand Club members, sponsors, and government officials enjoyed delicious media noche sliders and other snacks at the VIP Tent, catered by none other than Las Vegas Restaurant. Walkers enjoyed a variety of food and giveaways at the Sedano’s Supermarkets' sponsored Food Village, including Nestle, Colgate, Conchita Foods, Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza, Buffalo Wild Wings, Coca-Cola, and Dunkin Donuts.
A special thanks to Dessire Leon for getting over 70 celebrities to attend, including Adriana Catano, Alejandro Chaban, Alex Duran, Alex Hernandez, Alexa Pomales, Andrea Linares, Ana Maria Canseco, Ana Lorena Sanchez, Andeina Perez, Anna Sobrero, Arlena Amaro, Aymee Nuviola, Benavides, Bianca Perez, Carines Moncada, Carol Laursen, Carmen Zarruk, Charlie Cruz, Damaris Aguiar, Daniel Alfredo Ojeda, Danilo Carrera, Danell Leyva, Daniel Ojeda, David Rodriguez, David Rodriguez, Dr. Eddie Armas, Dr. Maritza Fuentes, Duvier Poviones, Eileen Cardet, Felicia Mercado, Gabriel Valenzuela, Gustavo Leone, Ileana Garcia, Isaac Reyes, Lance Dos Ramos, Issac Reyes, Ismael Cala, Jeannette Lehr, Jonathan Freudman, Jorge Consejo, Jorge Eduardo , Jose Luis Napoles, Jose Alberto Torres, Juan Esteban, Juan Rivera MD, J Quiles, Kimberly Dos Ramos, Leticia Hernandez, Liannet Borrego, Leslie Cartaya, Lucy Grau, Maria Gonzalez, Marilys Llanos, Maggie Jimenez, Maritza Bustamante, Martin, Llorens, Mariana Rodriguez, Melvin Cabrera, Orlando Leon, Oscar Petit, Rashel Diaz, Roxanne Vargas, Sandra Peebles who was our entertainment emcee, Sofia Lachapelle, Simone Cavalletti, Stephanie Severino, Vivian Gonzalez, and William Valdes.
In addition, the Walk was featured Telemundo Network, Telemundo 51, Univision 23, CBS4, Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and many more. Big Thanks to our Media Partners - Univision 23, Univision National, Telemundo 51, Telemundo Network, NBC6, CBS4, Univision Radio, Clear Channel Radio, Clear Channel Outdoor, CBS Outdoor, Portada Magazine, The Miami Herald & El Nuevo Herald.
This great event would not have been possible without the support and dedication of our volunteers who are the heart and soul of our walk - Manny Gaunaurd, Mariana Rodriguez, Wilson Cristancho, Albert Lopez, Cary Lopez, Maria Zaldivar, Henry Zaldivar, Natalie Zaldivar, Aleida Lanza, Aurelio Rey, Liliana Salazar, Kendall Elias, Christina Baguer, Christina Ericsson, Debbie Blanco, Dessire Leon, Orlando Leon, Felipe Basulto, Zoila Cortes, Barbara Delgado, Larixa Tacher, Mark Glassman, Nury Soler, Maria Luisa Gonzalez-Silva, Paul Jardon, Rosa Albarrado, Patricia Barbarena, Vanessa Zach, Eglee Nunez, Laura Gonzalez, Irelene Alfonso, Steve Fagundo, Franklin Roman, Johnny Calderin, Jose Pelegri, Gerardo Salas and Ed Ramcharran.
We would like to give a very special thank you to the City of Doral Council and Mayor Luigi Boria for embracing Autism Speaks. Many thanks also to our Walk Emcees, Orlando Leon, Mariana Rodriguez and Roxanne Vargas, as well as our stage presenters – Chairman of South Florida Ford Dealers Al Young, President of IMUSA Manny Gaunaurd, Chairman of the South Florida Chapter Board Albert Lopez, Florida Congressman Joe Garcia, City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade Public Schools Board Vice Chair Dr. Larry Feldman, School Board Member Raquel Regalado, Nury Soler of the Office of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Diana Rodriguez of the City of Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and all media talent and celebrities present.
Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to our wonderful Corporate Sponsors who made this Walk possible by donating money and many of them also formed teams. Our National Sponsors are Toys R Us, Babies R Us. Our Visionary Sponsors are South Florida Ford, Sedano’s Supermarkets, and Cindy & Mike Moran. Other corporate sponsors include BDO, IMUSA USA, FPL, Greenberg Traurig, Mastec, Butterfly Effects, TD Bank, FedEx, SunTrust, Patty and Robert Cambo, Ralph and Michelle Cruz, DHL, FirstBank Florida, Baptist Health South Florida, Mercantil Commercebank, Buffalo Wild Wings, CarMax Cares, Johnny Rockets, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, UM-NSU CARD, UM Autism Programs, and Publix Super Markets.
Most of all we thank our families for coming out to support and Walk Now for Autism Speaks and that someone you love and care about! Through your efforts by fundraising and reaching out we were able to raise over $630,000 dollars and still counting for our families here in Miami-Dade County. For more pictures and information about the Walk, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/autismspeaks.miami
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.