Step Up for Autism, a family-friendly walk with a choice of a 1-mile and 3-mile course, teamed up with dozens of teams and sponsors Sunday morning, June 24, along the Riverwalk. Standing near Centennial Beach looking west, the park appeared to be a sea of people all the way toward the registration station in the Grand Pavilion.
Designed to educate the community about autism, a complex developmental disability that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, the morning-long event welcomed all ages. Smiles were everywhere. Preliminary musical entertainment included aerobic warm-ups by the YMCA, songs by students from the School of Performing Arts and cheers by Naperville North High School Huskies until participants lined up, ready and set to go.
Organized teams sported all colors of t-shirts to show support of family and friends with autism. One team dressed up as Super Heroes.
In recent years, the growing-in-popularity event has helped raise awareness of autism, all while raising funds to benefit children and adults with autism, served by Little Friends and the Little Friends Center for Autism. Founded in 1965 and based in Naperville, Little Friends operates 11 dynamic programs including three alternative schools. In addition, services include family support and consultation services, vocational training programs and community-based residential assistance. Today Little Friends serves more than 800 people each year throughout DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Will, and western Cook counties.
Step Up for Autism included the 3-mile walk and fun run and a one-mile kid-friendly route along the Riverwalk. This year’s event again featured a fun-filled Kids Area, complete with healthful refreshments, interactive displays, moon jumps and entertainment.
To kick off the walk, Mayor George Pradel gave a rousing welcome with lots of gratitude to all in attendance for the benefit of Little Friends. The mayor also reminded participants to drink plenty of liquids in the high humidity, good advice for everyone else out in the summer heat, too.
For more information about Little Friends and the many services the nonprofit agency provides, visit www.littlefriendsinc.com.
For a link to the online medical library, visit autism.
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