STELLARTON – The annual Autism Walk just keeps growing.
More than 700 people registered for the seventh edition of the walk on Saturday in Stellarton, and organizer Allison Kearley marvels at how the event keeps drawing more participants and raising more funds.
Kearley is among members of Autism Pictou County, which is a chapter of Autism Nova Scotia.
The event set another record by raising $79,000 this year, the highest amount in Nova Scotia and $500 more than Halifax.
“We’re pretty excited,” she said. “We raised $75,000 last year and we’re up again for the seventh year.”
Kearley anticipated more than 700 people would register for the walk. Organizers ordered 600 T-shirts for the walk and were ready to order an extra 100 of them.
“It’s grown every day,” she said, while outlining the reasons why the event has grown.
“Autism is being detected more, and people are reaching out when they need support,” she said.”Members-at-large want to be a part of it. It’s been seven years for the walk and I don’t know where I’d be without it. I was looking for support for my daughter (who is autistic), but we’ve built a relationship with people and groups because what we raise stays here.”
The walk started and finished at the G.R. Saunders Elementary School, where Kearley teaches. It followed along Allen Avenue, Foord Street and Jubilee Avenue and back to the school.
G.R. Saunders has become an ideal location for the event, with its use of indoor and outdoor games to engage the younger walkers. Booths for games, face painting and other activities were set up in the gym, while the main lobby was filled with various silent auction items.
Kearley cited another reason for the walk’s expansion over the year.
“The siblings of autistic children have met friends who have siblings with autism, so there is that support too” she said.
The association describes as its main goal to support the local community and those wishing to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, a complex neurologically based developmental disability.
Members of the Richard family hold the banner for the 2018 Autism Walk on Saturday in Stellarton. From left are Kayla Richard, her brother Lucas Richard and their parents Laura and Brian Richard. In back with them is organizer Alison Kearley. (Goodwin photo)