Autism Awareness walk set for Saturday in Chattanooga

Autism Awareness walk set for Saturday in Chattanooga

November 8th, 2013 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Melissa Post, left, volunteer vendor coordinator, and Gina Mitch, Chattanooga Autism Awareness Walk coordinator, carry in food donations for the upcoming event Thursday at the Chattanooga Autism Center on McCallie Avenue. "We're asking people to begin registering at 8 a.m. Saturday at Coolidge Park," Dave Buck, executive director for the Chattanooga Autism Center. "The walk will begin at 10:30 a.m.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Organizers of the Chattanooga Autism Center's first fundraising walk said they expect about 1,000 participants to come out Saturday to raise money and awareness about autism.

"There are many more families than we realize who are affected by autism and many people in our community care enough to want to learn more about autism and to support what we're doing, said Dave Buck, the center's volunteer executive director.

Already the group has surpassed its $30,000 fundraising goal by about $15,000, officials said.

Dozens of sponsored banners displayed along the route will describe facts about autism.

"One out of every 50 children under age 18 has an autism spectrum disorder," said event co-chairman Gina Mitch.

The banners, Mitch noted, are aimed at making people more aware of autism and how to detect the disorder earlier in a child's life. The earlier autism is detected, the better chances for an appropriate diagnosis and intervention, she said.

The money from the walk will be used to fund the autism center's first employee.

It was two years ago that the state cut funding to the Team Center, once the clinical hub for children and adults with special needs. Parents and volunteers who assisted those children combined their resources, solicited donations and moved into the Chattanooga Autism Center office on McCallie Avenue in August 2012.

A licensed clinical social worker and licensed clinical psychologist work part-time and receive some funding through insurance for their service.

Monthly the center gets about 100 phone calls from people seeking services and sees about 50 people in its clinic. But with a paid staff person, the center's capacity to assist others will increase, said Buck.

"We already have consistency with volunteers," he said. "But this will add to that and it will allow us to grow."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.