Autism Speaks walk continues to grow; 25,000 expected at Doral park

The 2015 Autism Speaks Walk.
The 2015 Autism Speaks Walk. Photos provided by the city of Doral.

The Autism Speaks walk will be held at the Doral Central Park on April 10 as part of Autism Awareness Month.

Founded in 2005, Autism Speaks is an autism science and advocacy organization that holds many different events every year in nearly 100 cities across the United States, including the walk in Doral.

Autism is a complex disorder of brain development that can be characterized by difficulty communicating, nonverbal behavior and repetitive behaviors.

But Autism Speaks bring optimism to the families that have members with autism.

“I think it’s a very positive thing. It has been a great cause,” said Gaby Lopez, 20, who has a younger brother, Alexander, 19, with autism.

According to Lopez, Alexander was diagnosed at 18 months and their family has been involved ever since. The family began participating in the walk when she was 4. Her father is a walk committee member and a co-chair for Autism Speaks.

“I think the positive effect is that we’ve been able to raise a lot of money just to fund more research about autism,” Gaby Lopez said. “If it wasn’t for Autism Speaks, we wouldn’t have the resources to help with this challenge that these children face.”

Doral Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz is very involved with Autism Speaks and was named Autism Champion, an honorary position given by the organization for this year’s walk.

Ruiz states that it’s important to bring awareness about autism.

“What it means to the city of Doral is the opportunity to co-sponsor and bring awareness of autism to the community,” Ruiz said. “It’s an opportunity for others to join both have been impacted and individuals to support and to tell these families that they are not alone.”

“By raising awareness, it takes the shame out of the shadow,” added Evan Owen, communications and protocol manager for the city of Doral.

The Doral City Council supported the event and, according to Ruiz, is working to making this an annual event in the city of Doral and part of the city budget.

Doral Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Hernandez said the city has helped Autism Speaks from the beginning, including setup and bringing in volunteers from their volunteer database.

Hernandez expects up to 25,000 attendees this year after having somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 last year.

It is important to raise money to assist families and friends to learn about autism and that the city always wants to help, Hernandez said.

“We partner up because we want to help. It’s nice to bring these events because they bring the community out and people together. It shows our personality. Everybody’s welcome,” she said.