Showing support for children with autism
The Spectator - 4/11/2018
SOMERSET - At the end of the welcoming remarks, Brandon Abrams, a Somerset Berkley Regional High School student who has been diagnosed with autism, thanked people for coming and said, "Let's walk the walk."
The crowd of hundreds of people in attendance then went out onto the Somerset Berkley Regional High School track to walk two miles. It was part of the festivities of the Walk the Walk- Stepping in the Right Direction for Autism event at SBRHS where people could also get information related to autism at booths, eat some food from some of the food trucks that came, buy some raffle tickets or participate in some of the activities offered by the high school's Unified Track and Field Team and Spark Playspace.
The walk was organized by Julia Schoonover and Andrea Reagan, who are special education teachers at North Elementary School.
Schoonover said 347 people registered for the walk and she said the money that was raised will directly benefit students through grants that will be given to teachers to help them in their classrooms. She said the event was organized to bring awareness of autism and acceptance of it.
"I think the turnout shows that our community supports that which is wonderful," Schoonover said to the large crowd in attendance.
Theresa Abrams, who is the mother of Brandon, said she was shocked by the large amount of people who came to the walk. She said it felt like there was support and happiness at the walk. Theresa said because so many people are aware of autism today, the issue isn't as much about awareness anymore.
"It's kind of just about understanding because once they understand, they can relate," said Abrams who has started a non-profit organization called A.I.R.E. Time that provides inclusive activities for children.
Abrams said the children who came to the event could see they have things in common with other children who have autism and could see that they could relate to them.
"These kind of events do that," Abrams said.
Amanda Racine participated in the walk with her son Ayden who is five years old and has autism. She said it is very important for people to be aware and supportive of children with autism.
"They are a little bit different, but in the end, they have great qualities and should be treated equally," Racine said.
Ayden attends North Elementary School.
"They're amazing," Amanda said of the special education teachers at North Elementary School. "They go above and beyond. Mrs. Schoonover is his teacher and she is just outstanding."
Schoonover also thanked North Elementary School Principal Paula Manchester for helping to organize the autism walk.
School Superintendent Jeffrey Schoonover attended the event. He was impressed with the amount of people who came out to walk.
"It's a measure of our community and all the support we have for our students and the school department in general," Supt. Schoonover said.