Event raises more than $4,000 for SADI program to help families with autistic children
Sunday, October 18, 2009
More than 100 people participated in the first SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence Autism Walk-A-Thon. More than $4,000 was raised for SADI's new GAPS program, which begins in January.
"GAPS, which stands for Giving Autistics' Parents Support, will assist with helping families dealing with autism. It will help us step in and maybe pay a utility bill or purchase a piece of therapy equipment for a family," said Donna Thompson, director of personal care services for SADI.
She said that with an autistic grandson, she has seen the struggles these families experience.
"These kids need an autism diagnosis before they start school. Once a child has an autism diagnosis, the insurance doesn't always want to pay for medical expenses," Thompson said. She said children with autism routinely require medical attention from a variety of specialists, including neurologists and audiologists.
Karleigh DeLong, a student at Southeast Missouri State University, was one of the walkers Saturday. She said she has seen how early intervention and therapy can benefit autistic children.
"There is a family back home in California that had an autistic child that we baby-sat all the time. He basically grew up like my little brother. He was diagnosed severely autistic when he was 18 months. He had really great treatment all along. Now he is in first grade and mainstreamed and doing really well," DeLong said.
She said she and her Southeast volleyball teammates walked the route to help raise money to assist families who cannot always afford many of the items children with autism need.
"It's important for them to get these treatments and therapies so these children can do well in school," DeLong said.
Some people were at the walk to support the cause but chose not to walk. Don Henry of Oak Ridge said even though he was not walking himself, he sponsored a team of his family members. He said he hoped the event created awareness about the developmental disorder.
"I am supporting my great-grandson, who has autism. A lot of people really support this. Until they are around somebody who has autism they don't really realize what it is all about," Henry said.
Thompson said the walk may become an annual event.
"I am really pleased with the turnout. It has been great. We didn't know what to expect. We had never done a walk before. We should be between $4,000 and $5,000 raised, so we are very pleased," she said.
In addition to raising money, she said she hoped people get more information about autism and the services SADI offers.
"We want to spread the word. I want people to know that SADI is going to provide that type of support for families with autism," she said.
She also said she hoped the walk served as an opportunity for families dealing with autism to network with each other.
Thompson said all of the money made at the walk will stay locally, in one of the five Missouri counties currently served by SADI. These include Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Mississippi, Perry and Scott counties.
In addition to the walk, there were children's activities, face painting, concession sales, raffles and massages.