Runners and walkers from Franklin Parish and the surrounding area took part in the third annual Autism Awareness event at Franklin Parish High School football stadium, April 27.

The theme for this year’s event was “Be a Saint for Autism,” Rochelle Kelly, co-director of the event, said.

Kelly along with Eumeka Gipson with Northeast New Start Outreach organized the event which included jumping castles for children, refreshments and give-aways from the sponsors.

The event saw adults and children take part in the 5K race which was designed to raise money in support of autism awareness and give honor to Sarah Haring, a local advocate and mother of an autistic child who was tragically killed in a car crash earlier this year.

“Sarah was a big advocate for autism (awareness),” Kelly said. “Not only was she a great inspiration to me but to others. She made a huge impact on individuals not only in Franklin Parish but also in Richland Parish. Her legacy will be hard to follow, but it can be done.”

Some 200 people registered for the event this year, Kelly said.

“The participation doubled from last year,” she said. “I consider the event a success, and it was awesome.”

Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.

Autism affects an estimated one in 59 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The following 3 businesses sponsored this event. (*Franklin State Bank*, *Caldwell State Bank*, and *Sango*). Thank you to Walmart, Autozone, Citgo(South), One Step Farther, Lyfe Skills Collaboration, NAACP, Washington Imagery, Sonic, Franklin Parish Black Achievers, Winnsboro State Bank, Bag Galore & More, Dr Reeds Office, Dr. Little Office, Fort Necessity Church, Sheriff Gilley(Richland Parish), Chief Fleming(Richland Parish), Mayor Natt(Richland Parish), Advance America, Security Finance, Crissy Mobley's, Divine Desserts, Elite Designs, Skimps Inflatables, Victory Temple, Marquesa Barber(Tax Guru), Nikki Tarver(Mental Health Agency), Shalisa Hollis(Insurance Agent), Lousiana Workforce(Quachita Parish). 

“A lot of hard work was placed into this event,” Kelly said. “The mission was to bring smiles to our babies face and WE DID!! To our community and phenomenal parents that trusted us to pull this off again thank you. We welcome everyone to support Autism, you never know the obstacles any parent or love one goes through unless you are the individual giving and supplying to the one that's needing the care and attention.” 

The Autism Awareness event takes place on the last Saturday of April each year.


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