ASSATEAGUE ISLAND – Organizers are gearing up for the first local Run Wild for Autism event.
On Sunday, Oct. 3, Pathfinders for Autism will host its first annual Run Wild for Autism Assateague Island.
Held at Assateague Island State Park, organizers say the event will include a walk/run, followed by a resource fair that includes kid activities, food and family friendly entertainment.
“We’re really encouraging families to come out,” said Pathfinders for Autism Development Director Katie Ramirez. “It’s a community event.”
Pathfinders for Autism is a statewide organization that works to support and improve the lives of individuals affected by autism through programming, resources, training and free activities. Ramirez noted that fundraising events such as Run Wild for Autism make it possible for the nonprofit to support its mission.
“The funds we raise at this event are going to allow us to provide more programmatic needs to the Eastern Shore,” she added.
Eleven years ago, Pathfinders for Autism launched its Run Wild for Autism fundraiser at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. And for the first time, the organization is bringing the event to Assateague Island.
“In keeping with the title, it made sense to do the event on Assateague Island because we would be running with the wild animals on Assateague Island,” Ramirez said.
Run Wild for Autism Assateague Island – a casual three-mile run/walk or one-mile fun run – will kick off at 9 a.m., with registration taking place an hour prior. Ramirez noted that the course will start at the state park parking lot and will follow the bike trail 1.5 miles out. Participants can then return on the bike trail, or up the beach and back to the parking lot.
“When the walk is over, it will essentially be a resource fair at that point,” she said. “There will be an opportunity for families to learn more about Pathfinders for Autism and our partners.”
Ramirez noted that the Autistic Children’s Support Group of Worcester County, Atlantic General Hospital, Oceanfront Counseling and other representatives will be in attendance. The event will also feature kid-friendly activities and entertainment provided by DJ Matt Romanowski and Cascading Carlos.
“This is really meant to be a community event, so we want families to come and have fun,” she said, “create T-shirts and come up with a fun team name.”
This year, the Prince family, which includes Kim Prince and her 10-year-old daughter, Abby, will serve as this year’s ambassador family. Ramirez said Prince, a board member for the Autistic Children’s Support Group of Worcester County, has been instrumental in bringing the Run Wild event to Assateague Island.
“I’ve been here for 13 years, and I see the lack of resources we have on the Eastern Shore for children with autism and related disorders,” Prince said. “I recognize the wonderful things Pathfinders for Autism offers, and they really try to offer it throughout the entire state of Maryland.”
Prince noted that events such as the Run Wild fundraiser are crucial, as they raise awareness of local resources.
“It’s a great community event, but it will also be an awesome resource fair so people in our community can start to learn these resources are out there and that people are working really hard to make them available,” she said.
Ramirez agreed, noting the nonprofit helps people from the moment their child is diagnosed with autism. She added that Autism Spectrum Disorder affects one in 52 children in Maryland.
“I feel we need more awareness, understanding and acceptance,” she said. “That’s really what this walk/run is about.”
Ramirez said those interested in Run Wild for Autism Assateague Island can pre-register for the event, or sign up to participate virtually, at https://runsignup.com/Race/MD/Berlin/RunWildforAutismAssateagueIsland. Pathfinders for Autism is also seeking volunteers to man the event.
“If anybody’s looking for service hours, we are looking for volunteer,” she said.
While individual registration is available, organizers are encouraging families to participate as a team, as superlatives and incentives will be awarded for most creative T-shirts, most creative team name and top fundraising team. Local schools, sports teams and businesses are also encouraged to participate.
“We are looking for businesses to sign on as a sponsor, but there are also opportunities for smaller businesses to register as a corporate team and raise money as a corporate team,” Ramirez said. “Depending on how much they raise, they get marketing opportunities as well.”
A discount is available online to those who register for both the Baltimore and Assateague Island Run Wild events, Ramirez. The registration fee for Run Wild for Autism Assateague Island also includes a park entrance fee, so participants can stay and play on the beach.
“I’m so excited to see this event happen on the Eastern Shore and for Pathfinders to be offering it,” Prince said. “It’s just awesome.”