1,500 people stepped up in support of the more than 1.5 million Americans with autism this morning. The 6th Annual Step Up For Autism Walk benefiting Naperville’s Little Friends took place at the Riverwalk Grand Pavilion.
Started back in 2009, the event continues to thrive drawing in both those impacted by Autism as well as those who want to help.
“Obviously it’s a way to raise funds for the agency, but it’s also to raise awareness of autism in the Naperville community and how it impacts friends, neighbors, and families,” said President and CEO of Little Friends, Inc., Kristi Landorf. “And the services we can provide to those families.”
Like the Simon Family, who organized a team to walk for their son Christian to support the center that has supported them.
“Christian was diagnosed by Little Friends when he was two,” said Christian’s dad, Mark Simon. “We’ve been doing all the Naperville and Chicagoland Walks since then.”
Team Christian, made up of more than 20 people, wore lime green shirts to represent their group. But, they say today everyone is on the same team today because they are all walking to support children and adults with Autism.
“It’s heartwarming and touching,” said Mark Simon. “I know how hard Little Friends works and the fact that all these people with all these representative teams and knowing they are walking for kids like Christian and all the kids on the spectrum is heartwarming. It’s an awesome situation.”
The festivities included a 2.5-mile walk and fun run as well as a one-mile kid-friendly route along the river.
The proceeds from Step Up for Autism will go directly towards serving local children and adults on the spectrum, including services like family support, therapy, and recreational activities.
This year organizers estimate that the 1,500 participants will have helped Little Friends raise over $50,000.
“It’s wonderful,” said Landorf. “It means that the people embrace the cause and they embrace the people we support, which is the most important thing to us. And that they are willing to help us.”
All the money and support goes directly to helping clients of Little Friends, like Christian.
“Through speech and occupational therapy all started with Little Friends, Christian is now 15 and having a great a successful time at Waubonsie Valley High School as a sophomore,” said Mark Simon.
Over the last five years, Step Up For Autism has raised more than $400,000.
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