Community walks the walk for autism

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Bubbles add to a fun day during the Walk for Autism Awareness at McEuen Park last weekend. The event brought in $31,000 to help support families and individials in the five northern counties whose lives are impacted by autism. (Courtesy photo)

COEUR d’ALENE — The people of North Idaho really walked the walk for autism last weekend.

Panhandle Autism Society President Jennifer Cork reported that the ninth annual Walk for Autism Awareness, which was held last Saturday at McEuen Park, brought in more than $31,000 to benefit families and individuals in North Idaho whose lives are impacted by autism. Cork said the PAS board has allocated $10,000 of those funds to be given in grants to individuals with autism in the five northern counties. Grant recipients can receive up to $500 for items not covered by insurance that offer support for their autism-related symptoms such as sensory clothing and special swings.

"The response from our community during Autism Awareness Month has been so incredible," Cork said. "We had so many businesses and community members reaching out to support us because they believe in our mission and because people with autism have touched their lives."

More than 25 sponsors and more than 30 businesses helped support the event, which had 576 registered participants.

PAS Vice President Caitlin Christensen said the amount of love and support from the community is encouraging for what PAS will be able to achieve for individuals with autism and their families.

"I have three sons, and our oldest two are on the spectrum and they have been the recipients of the grants that are given by PAS each year for the past five years," she said. "The money we receive in these grants supplies my boys with therapy equipment they desperately need that insurance does not cover. Fidget items, compression clothing, swings, etc., the list goes on. This is my first year on the board for Panhandle Autism Society and I am so just so humbled and encouraged by the amount of individuals, families and businesses who have responded to our mission and want to help in any way they can."

April is Autism Awareness Month. On April 2, Meltz donated 100 percent of its profits for the day ($5,209.80) and the Donut House sold puzzle piece doughnuts and raised $615 for PAS. During the walk on April 13, Autism Society of America board member Lori Ireland donated $5,000 at the event. On Wednesday, Cork conducted two free Autism 101 trainings at the Kroc Center.

"I feel so blessed to be part of the Panhandle Autism Society and to see so many people show up at our events this month to support individuals on the spectrum," Cork said. "People with autism are such an asset to our community and I feel like this month, I can see that our community agrees."

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