(October 1, 2006) — As many as 1,000 people took part in the
fourth annual Rochester Walk for Autism Research on Saturday and
raised a record $115,000 — nearly double last year's amount —
for further study of the pervasive yet mysterious disorder.
Participants circled the
Brighton campus of Monroe Community College.
While the presence of Jason "J-Mac" McElwain — who was on hand
with his ESPY award — was a draw, many walkers had a personal
connection with the cause.
In the middle of the pack,
Jaden's Butterflies seemed to be everywhere. Named after Jaden
Fournier, the 3-year-old autistic boy who drowned in June in his
family's pool, the 55-member team had raised nearly $5,000.
"I think it's incredible," said
Shannon Polny, a Medicaid service coordinator who had been one
of Jaden's therapists. "And I think if we can do it every year,"
the impact will be profound, she added.
Gates resident Rachel Bradley,
a friend of Jaden's mother, walked with her husband and their
four children on Jaden's behalf.
"Once that happened, I said (to myself), 'You know, you really
need to find out how (autism) can happen and how we can prevent
it,'" she said.
According to the National
Alliance for Autism Research, one in 166 children is diagnosed
with autism, for which there is no medical cure or mechanism for
While some people with autism
are mildly affected, most require lifelong supervision and have
significant language impairments.
"Many children with autism will never be able to tell their
parents they love them," wrote Amy Johnson, who chaired the
walk, in an informational packet. Her son, Rex, was diagnosed
with autism last year, at 9 months old.
Obaida Omar of Brighton knows
that pain. She said her 9-year-old son, Faheem Omar, "lives in
his own world" and doesn't speak. "He's a special guy," she
said, wrapping her arms around the boy.
Besides his parents, his sister
Deena Omar, 13; brother Nadeem Omar, 11; uncle Mesba Najim; and
cousin, Haseena Najim, 5, made a special effort to participate
in the walk. It is Ramadan and the family is fasting.
"I badly want a cure," Obaida
Omar said. "That is my hope. My dream."