And that’s not all that was shining. So too were the smiles of those who took part as $17,500, and counting, was raised to help support the South West Nova Chapter of Autism Nova Scotia.
Walkers and runners – which included families, children and other community members – walked to raise money, but also to raise awareness during the June 10 event.
The walk started and ended at Central School in Yarmouth, where children’s activities and games and musical entertainment kept people entertained before and after the walk/run, which included 6K, 3K and 1K routes. Volunteers with the Yarmouth County Ground Search and Rescue Team assisted with directions on the routes.
Typically this event raises $12,000 and that had been the goal for this year as well. But the goal was well surpassed with more money yet to come in. People can also continue to make donations online at the Yarmouth Walk the Walk for Autism page.
Michele LeBlanc, of the South West Nova Chapter of Autism Nova Scotia, says much has been accomplished since the chapter started its work in 2009 in terms of the supports the chapter has been able to provide to families and professionals.
“We offer, in partnership with YARCO, a summer respite program every summer and what that does it allows us to have summer students to do programming specific for kids with autism and other types of disabilities, so that they can participate in recreational activities and some of the camp programs that are happening in our communities,” she gives as an example. “We started out supporting around 10 to 12 families. Now we’re up into the 30-range.”
They also started out with one student hired and last year had seen 5 hired.
The chapter also offers annual education days. This year’s happens on June 17 at the NSCC Burridge Campus from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The day will include presentations on routine-based intervention in natural environments, recreation and leisure strategies and Project Life Saver. There will be Chompers, sensory products, for sale and a mini-expo as well.
The cost to parents/caregivers is free and it is $20 for professionals. People can pre-register by emailing [email protected]
The chapter has also supported the Autism Arts Program at the Yarmouth art gallery, has provided sponsorships to Camp Brigadoon, held movie nights and created a chapter navigator position. With its volunteers it has also done outreach work in Shelburne and Digby counties, and has done some family swims in Barrington.
“One of the things I tell people when we’re doing the welcome at the walk is we’re always looking for people to help us. We are small in numbers in terms of bodies that do the work and in order for us to do more, we need more people,” LeBlanc says. “If people have ideas and they can champion it in their communities, let’s sit down and talk.”
One of the many families that supports the walk and the chapter is that of Kandise Robicheau’s. Her son Carter was diagnosed with Autism when he was two years old. This year will mark the sixth year they take part in the walk. Their team’s name is Carter’s Crew. “It is about creating awareness and supporting the chapter, all the money stays local,” she says, adding she would like to see the work of the chapter continue to grow, but for that to happen they need more people to be involved in helping out with the chapter. One area she thinks is still needed is support groups.
“You get lot of supports when you first get diagnosed, but there’s no real support group, I’d like to see more of a support system because when you have a child with a disability it can feel kind of isolating,” she says. Robicheau, meanwhile, has one of the first-ever ‘Caution Autistic Child’ signs near her home. The sign was installed by the Municipality of Argyle. “My son is very fast. He’s not a huge flight risk, but there will be kids playing next door and he he’ll run right across the road,” she says. The sign alerts motorists to be careful and cautious.
At the Yarmouth Walk the Walk for Autism, Michele LeBlanc read a posting that parent Christie MacDonald, of the Mia’s Marvels team, has posted on Facebook prior to the walk.
“I’m walking because this year, while casually chatting and sitting around our family dinner table, Mia announced to us all that she had Autism. She was right, but it was the first time I had ever heard her say out loud ‘I have Autism.’
“I’m walking because hearing her say that was heart breaking and emotional, yet it also made me really proud of her. All I want to do is protect her from the labels, misunderstandings and frustrations that come with that diagnosis.
“I’m walking because I want to instil in our kids that the number one thing that they can do as a part of this family is support each other.
“I’m walking because I want to talk to other parents, siblings and friends of those who have also received an Autism diagnosis. I want to be a support to them, and I want to be supported as well.
“I’m walking for awareness. I’m fundraising because the need for more assistance, research and support is invaluable to families like ours.”
There were nine Walk the Walk for Autism events held in Nova Scotia on June 10, with an overall $256,700 raised. Autism Nova Scotia says the funds from each walk stays in the communities in which they were raised to provide much needed programs and services for individuals with autism and their families.