SAFE WALK FOR ALL
Families find support at autism resource event
HAZLE TWP. — T he Hazleton Area High School Marching Band kicked off the first lap of the SAFE Autism Walk and Resource Fair at the school’s track along West 23rd Street on Saturday morning.
Numerous tents were set up with tables where families could get information about resources for loved ones affected by autism spectrum disorder and services available in the area.
SAFE stands for Supporting Autism and Families Everywhere and this is sixth year for the annual walk, which raises money that stays locally to help people with ASD, said Eileen Perchak, the organization’s executive director.
The funds go toward a music experience, a soccer outing and other trips and events, a teen social skills/ activity group, a children’ s group and an adult Asperger’s group, she said.
SAFE has been in existence for 25 years and privately funded through donations, Perchak said. The group hoped to raise $10,000 through the walk, while putting families in touch with the resources they need, she said.
“We are grateful to the band, which comes out every year,” Perchak said while grilling up hot dogs for them.
SAFE also hosts support group meeting with guest speakers with
relevant topics for families, said Peggy Durako, assistant director. The meetings are held at the Hazleton YMCA and the Graham Academy in Kingston, she said. They also have swimming events for kids Y on weekends, she said.
Angelina Umbriac sang the national anthem and attorney Conrad Falvello, representing U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, read a letter supporting the organization and the event from the congressman, as did Christopher Pavlick, representing state Rep. Tarah Too hil,R -116, Butler Twp ., who could not attend the event.
Signs with sponsors’ names ringed the track and tricky trays were available under one of the tents. Fior Rojas took some chances while waiting to see her son come around the track as he marched with the band.
Tammy Wall of Summit Hill walked the first lap with her 6- yearold daughter, Chessa, who has autism. She was surprised they made it all the way around, because Chessa doesn’t always cooperate.
She came to the walk to find resources because there really aren’t any in Carbon County, she said. Hazleton isn’t that far away so it was worth a look, Wall said.
Chessa attends special classes and they also turned to Turn to Us in Jim Thorpe, which puts families dealing with a chronic illness in touch with resources and financial and emotional support, Wall said.
Eric and Danielle Smith came out to the walk with their family because their son, Caleb, has autism.
“It’s been an uphill battle,” Danielle said. “He was non-verbal until age 3. We love SAFE. We’ re here every year. We go to as many of their events as we can.” Contact the writer: kmonitz@standard speaker.com; 570-501-3589
Hazleton Area High School Cougars’ Marching Band leads the beginning lap ofthe SAFE Autism Walk and Resource Fair at the school’s track Saturday.
Chessa Wall of Summit Hill and her mom, Tammy, complete one lap of the walk. Chessa has autism, and her mother said she was surprised they made it all the way around, as Chessa doesn’t always cooperate.