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by Anne Berleant
Seventy-eight runners toed the starting line on a wet Saturday morning for the fourth annual Making Strides Run/Walk, but they were doing more than practicing the art of racing in the rain. The participants represented the gathering of a community to help raise money and awareness of autism, a neurological disease that affects one of every 88 children in mild to severe ways.
Making Strides held the race, its fourth annual 5K fundraiser in late September and raised $9,000 to spend locally on education, training and special activities for families who deal with autism every day.
One family event that garnered winning marks last year—sensory movie nights—will be repeated, said Making Strides’ founder and trustee Katye LaCasse. Held last year at the Alamo Theater in Bucksport for three nights and once at the Stonington Opera House, the night offers a free movie and concessions in an atmosphere “designed to accommodate those with sensory needs”: lights up, sound down, no distracting previews—and no one had to sit still. Between 80 and 100 people attended each night, LaCasse reported last spring, after the movie nights had ended.
Money raised from the annual race is also donated to the special education department at Blue Hill Consolidated School. Last year, a $3,300 donation from the proceeds was spent on enhancing the occupational therapy room at the school, an autism awareness campaign at BHCS and the Deer Isle-Stonington schools during April, which is National Autism Awareness Month, and on educating students diagnosed with autism at both schools.
“It was a huge success at both schools,” said LaCasse.
One piece of Making Strides’ long-range plans is to help educate Blue Hill high school students who have neurological disorders, something LaCasse calls “a major reason for the organization.” She said she hopes to be able to move forward on that this year.
“Currently, we are still trying to help the children, their families and schools in this area any way we can.”
The Making Strides website offers additional information—makingstrides.me.