What a perfect time of year to get outside, breathe fresh air and go for a walk.
In addition to the health benefits, walking is an easy, fun way to raise money for many nonprofit organizations that need support.
Bring your family and invite friends to join you at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Oct. 9 for the Walk Now for Autism Speaks walk sponsored by the Carolinas Chapter of Autism Speaks.
This event is open to the public and a favorite of kids. A committee of about 20 volunteers from Harrisburg and surrounding areas has worked to create a fun-filled day for the community.
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Individuals, families, teams, churches and corporate groups interested in walking are encouraged to pre-register online but may also register the morning of the walk. The group's website, www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/carolinas, also includes donation instructions and pledge forms. Walkers who raise $1,000 or more will be part of the new "Grand Club."
"This is a very exciting location to hold the walk," said co-chairperson of the volunteer committee for the walk, Laura Milliken of Harrisburg. The walk will take place on the actual racetrack, which is seldom done, she said. Volunteers and local businesses will provide free food, a moon bounce, face painting, crafts, games, visits from mascots, television and radio stations and even NASCAR simulator cars.
Walk Now for Autism Speaks will be conducting more than 80 walks around the nation in 2010 along with other fundraising events.
Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism organization dedicated to increasing awareness of and providing funding for research, treatments and cure for autism as well as advocating for the needs of affected families. Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop proper social relationships. It is often accompanied by behavioral challenges that can be severe.
Kelli Embler of Harrisburg is the newly appointed executive director for the North and South Carolina chapters of Autism Speaks.
After 81/2 years as the coordinator for Special Olympics Cabarrus County, Embler has stepped into an even more challenging position.
"Of course, I am sad to leave a wonderful organization like Special Olympics, but am thrilled to have the opportunity to work for a fantastic organization where research on autism is on the cutting edge. I believe I will be able to have a positive impact on this autism community that is continuing to grow at such a rapid rate. It is exciting for me to know that I can make a difference," said Embler.
Many residents of Harrisburg are currently involved with Autism Speaks, and the group is growing.
Milliken is involved for her son, Brendan, who is 5.
"He is sweet and beautiful and has classic autism," said Milliken.
Brendan has very limited expressive language and suffers from multiple symptoms related to his autism, including seizures, sleep disorders, and ADHD.
"While I do what I can to help him, I also like knowing that I am doing what I can to help raise money to find the cause and the cure of this awful disease," she said.
The largest and most concentrated way Autism Speaks raises funds for research is through this annual "Walk Now for Autism Speaks" event. Many corporations and organizations have donated items, services and time to ensure the event is a success, according to Embler.
"We look forward to having the entire community come out and enjoy this opportunity to change the life of a child," said Embler.