Over 3,500 families and individuals joined Autism Speaks for its 8th annual Cleveland Walk Now for Autism Speaks event on Sunday, September 14th at Progressive Field. Four year emcee Jason Nicholas, from WEWS News Channel 5, returned and partnered with Jim McIntyre of WHK Radio in the emcee duties. Walk day started out a little chilly, but teams and walkers came out to show their support and increase awareness in a BIG way with their team shirts and signs. Cleveland-area families have helped to raise over $225,000 for the 2014 Walk Now for Autism Speaks and donations are still coming in!
During the event, Elizabeth Sweeney, an advocate in the Bay Village community where a recent "ice bucket challenge" bullying incident took place, reminded everyone of the importance of tolerance and acceptance of those with special needs including autism.
The day included an amazing community resource fair of veteran and new supporters representing 25 community organizations and service providers. Also joining the festivities were Sir CC from the Cavs, Sully from the Cleveland Monsters Hockey Team, the St. Ignatius Jugglers, and clowns to face paint and create balloon art for the kiddos. Performances by the Princesses and Thieves, Zach Music Band, and DJ Randy Moss welcome walkers as they entered the park. Team photos were a huge hit in the home dugout of the Cleveland Indians. Special guest Charlene Westfall, 2014 Teen Miss Northern Ohio, spoke about her platform of autism.
The ladies of Alpha Xi Delta at Kent State University and Mount Union helped to countdown to the start of the walk where Team Jack cut the ribbon with Geoffrey from Toys R Us. The walk began under Rally Alley and ended on the warning track of Progressive Field. By walking a mile today, we hope to find more pieces to the puzzle tomorrow.
Thank you to the 2014 sponsors including Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Diamond Shine Express Car Wash, The Sherwin-Williams Company, Case Western Reserve University, Jay Automotive Group, Case Western University International Center for Research and Education, Galvin Therapy Center, Building Blocks Therapy, Positive Education Program, Century Federal Credit Union, and National Philanthropy Partner, Alpha Xi Delta. A large thanks to our media partners WEWS Newsnet 5, 1330 WINT Radio, Fine LifeStyles Magazine, Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine, Hulafrog, and the Radio Disney Ultimate Field Day
Special thanks to all of the amazing volunteers that helped with set-up and to all of the families and teams that helped to make walk day a home run!
Check out some photos of the walk and see coverage from Fox 8 Cleveland below