Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs recently attended the Autism Society of Greater Orlando’s (ASGO) 9th Annual Autism Walk and Family Fun Day at the Orange County Convention Center.
Mayor Jacobs welcomed participants and their families with the keynote speech and provided a proclamation naming May 3, 2014 as Autism Walk Day in Orange County.
“No family should struggle to find resources for their precious children,” Mayor Jacobs said at the event. “We are here to help raise awareness about the autism spectrum and the many ways it is affecting our children; as well as to shine light on the great efforts that are underway, from research to therapy, in our local community.”
District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson spoke at the event and provided remarks on her ongoing inclusion projects in the community, including Orange County's first inclusive playground as part of the new Young Pine Park in East Orlando. The playground will break ground on June 4 at 10 a.m. and allows all children and families to enjoy park amenities.
“I have been working on this for a while and we looked at what has been done across the country, met with families of autistic kids, had conversations with the CEO of UCP of Central Florida, about how best to build the playground,” Commissioner Thompson said. “My goal is that this becomes the first of many. I have already put in a budget request for another one at Downey Park.”
As the third most prevalent development disability in the United States, autism affects hundreds of Central Florida families every year. According to ASGO, approximately 10,000 individuals living in the Orlando area have been diagnosed with autism. ASGO and other organizations are dedicated to providing a network of opportunities for these individuals.
“We were honored to have Mayor Jacobs attend the event and present ASGO with the Autism Walk Day proclamation,” said Donna Lorman, president of Autism Society of Greater Orlando. “It was a pleasure to hear her and Commissioner Thompson speak about autism, community inclusion, and the new accessible Orange County Park that is designed so that every Orange County citizen, regardless of disability, will have a place to play.”
ASGO was founded in 1996 by a group of parent volunteers to better assist families of children and adults with autism in Central Florida. The annual 5K walk assists in raising funds for local families and increasing autism awareness.
Mayor Jacobs kicked-off the 5K walk at the convention center with a countdown and led the group’s walk around the concourse. Other highlights included a raffle, silent auction, local vendors, kid’s activities and special treats for parents to enjoy.
A record-breaking $73,000 was raised from the event. The support of Mayor Jacobs and Orange County’s Board of County Commissioner’s allows ASGO to host this event, with only seven percent of the funds raised going towards costs and 93 percent of the funds going directly to support our local families and autism community.
“There was such great energy at this important community event and my heart was touched to see so many citizens come together for such a great cause,” Mayor Jacobs said. “I am so proud that Orange County’s citizens do such an outstanding job of giving back to the community that we call home.”
A collection of photos from the event is available for media use and can be found on Flickr.