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Somerset Berkley will Walk the Walk for autism awareness

Herald News - 4/3/2018

SOMERSET - Special education teachers Julia Schoonover and Andrea Reagan, along with North Elementary School Principal Paula Manchester, are the driving force behind the town's first-ever informational event for autism.

The event, which will be held on Saturday, April 7, from 1 to 4 p.m. on the track at Somerset Berkley Regional High School, will combine awareness, information and the fun of walking two miles around the high school track.

Not that you have to walk the whole two miles.

"It's an open walk," Reagan says. "People can jump in any time."

So far, it seems to be an idea whose time has come.

"We have 291 registrations as of this morning," Schoonover said Thursday. "We'll still be taking registrations the day of the walk."

In an effort to get the word out, organizers have used social media and sent fliers home with students.

"There are signs in front of the police department and the fire department, too," Schoonover said.

"The event is to raise awareness, eliminate the stigma and bring this into the community," Manchester said.

The walk won't be the only attraction, either.

"We're going to have informational tents and activities," Reagan said. "We've got about 15 informational tents."

The informational tents will provide various information on autism, including details about resources and services.

"The fire department will be there with their safety house, and the police department with a cruiser," said Schoonover.

"Every two years, we ask teachers to identify goals they want to achieve," Manchester said.

Presented with that challenge, Schoonover and Reagan came up with Walk the Walk - Stepping in the Right Direction for Autism, the official name for the event.

"It's about shining the light on autism and focusing on education and acceptance," Reagan said.

"We've opened an account with the proceeds," Schoonover said.

Money raised will be used to buy technology or establish programs in the schools, but that technology and those programs will not necessarily be of benefit to only autistic students.

Teachers will be asked to request funding from the money raised for individual projects that will enhance students' learning experiences (sensory equipment, field trips, supplies, etc.).

The cost is $20 for adults, $10 for those under 12 and free for children 2 and younger.

To register, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2151212928229230/.

Email Marc Munroe Dion at mdion@heraldnews.com.

 
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