ELLSWORTH — It is hard to keep track of a moving target but well over 100 people from Brewer to Bar Harbor walked from Knowlton Park to Main Street and back to raise awareness and funds for autism on April 20.
The Downeast Horizons Autism Walk is in its 13th year and typically raises about $5,000, Executive Director Anthony Zambrano said.
“It’s a real fun event, a sea of red,” he said, waving to the red T-shirt wearing crowd that filled the park.
Proceeds from the walk make possible the purchase of supplies, stocking the resource library, releasing public service announcements and funding activities such as bowling and miniature golf.
Social activities are critical for people with autism, Zambrano said, and so is early intervention.
“If a parent knows his or her kiddo might have a sign or symptom [of autism], that really helps that kid, so they don’t need help later on,” he said.
Most people walked, and some observed, like PeterAnn Hodgdon, of Ellsworth.
“I’m just going to watch because I have to go to the doctor’s today,” she said.
Walking the 2-mile route was the “Foster Street gang,” as Kara Oakes, who helps staff the Ellsworth group home, affectionately called her charges Sylvia, Steve and Mary Ellen.
The Autism Walk is the kind of activity Zambrano had pointed to, that brings people with autism out into the world. “We’ve got to teach them in that environment and make them comfortable,” he said.
A nonprofit organization, Downeast Horizons has provided community-based services for people with disabilities and their families since 1974 in Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Waldo counties, and operates programs in Bar Harbor, Ellsworth and Brewer.
Camden National Bank was a major sponsor of this year’s Autism Walk.
For more information, or to pledge or donate, visit www.dehi.org or call 885-894-3599.