Annual ‘Step Up For Autism’ Event Raises Awareness In Celoron

Participants gathered Saturday outside holding a “Step Up For Autism” banner before a 1.5-mile walk. Activities were held inside the Resource Center in Celoron to raise awareness. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Hope and joy filled The Resource Center as dozens participated in the 1.5-mile walk for the eighth annual Step Up For Autism event Saturday.

“Autism now, statistics are showing its at epidemic proportions,” said Victoria Trass Bardo, development event manager for Filling The Gap. “One in every 68 births (are affected). So, folks are trying to get to the bottom of autism and how we can help.”

The walk provides information on autism throughout the day for parents who want to learn more. Bardo said last year’s event brought in over 300 participants and optimistic they hit that mark again this year.

All proceeds raised for Step Up For Autism go to Filling The Gap for autism awareness.

Representatives for Governor Andrew Cuomo and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, were in attendance, as well as County Executive Vince Horrigan and State Sen. Cathy Young, all of whom praised the event and supported the push to raise awareness for autism research.

County Executive Vince Horrigan speaks Saturday at the awareness event.

The 1.5-mile walk took participants down to Lake Chautauqua and back around to the Resource Center. After the walk, a cake auction was held among other activities.

Bardo said that the cake auction brings in a large amount of money for autism all by itself. Last year, the cakes alone generated an estimated $2,000, Bardo said.

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a fun day,” Bardo said. “Hopefully it spills out into the community.”

For Bardo, the best moment of the event is when people pitch in and raise money for autism awareness. One individual in particular she mentioned was Chris Decker, who went out, with the help from his mother and her co-workers, and collected bottles and cans to raise money for Step Up For Autism. In total, Decker raised $648.

Many families were in attendance Saturday attempting to raise awareness and hope on autism. Darlene Lascola, direct support professional at the Resource Center said she has participated in this event for the last four years. Ever since her six year-old grandson was diagnosed with autism she has been at this event supporting him.

“In honor of him I just want to keep doing it and I hope some day that we can have enough money that all the programs that are available can come to everyone,” Lascola said.

For Lascola and her family, the turnout for Step Up For Autism means the world to them.

“My hearts dancing, I love it,” Lascola said. “It means a lot to me and I work with people every day that have disabilities and when my own grandson ended up having a disability you just appreciate more. The more people you see you realize that there is support in the community. It’s overwhelming sometimes.”