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Run raises more than $7K for autism

By Kira O'Grady
On April 5, 2010

  • In this photo, a vehicle is seen parked under a tree near Storrs Hall. Gregory Anderson, a UConn professor, said that this practice slowly suffocates trees and is working to stop it. Photo courtesy of Gregory Anderson

UConn's Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity raised over $7,000 for autism spectrum disorders at their Autism Speaks 5k Run/Walk on Saturday.

There were 106 runners and walkers at the event, as well as one dog. Registration was free but participants were encouraged to raise and donate money for Autism Speaks. Many of the participants raised money before the event but some people were still bringing contributions on Saturday morning.

Because of the continuing donations Tau Kappa Epsilon's philanthropy chair, Ronald Houde, wasn't sure exactly how much money they ended up raising but he said it was definitely more than $7,000.

All the money raised on Saturday will go directly to researching treatments and diagnosis techniques for autism spectrum disorders.

According to Houde, several years ago the fraternity raised money for larger national charities but decided they wanted to host a smaller event with a local charity.

"We got involved with Autism Speaks at that point and enjoyed working with them so much that we decided to work with them for a major event," Houde said. "The 5k race is a great event because it is always changing and growing every year."

Autism SpeaksU, established by Autism Speaks in 2006, is a program that aims to connect college campuses with the autism community. According to its Web site, the program "guides students on college campuses across America through the process of organizing and coordinating fundraising events on their campus to benefit Autism Speaks." Since its creation, the 5k Run/Walk has raised over $550,000 and has attracted more than 4,700 participants across the country.

Many of the participants who came to the event were associated with fraternities or sororities. Kelsey Cunningham, a 2nd-semester pre-communications major from Kappa Alpha Theta, said "I heard about the run through my sorority and I run every day so I decided to do it."

Many people decided to take part just to race and enjoy the weather. Adam Hurwitz, a 4th-semester psychology major, finished first out of all participants with a time of 17:01.

"I think the race went well," Hurwitz said. "It was perfect running weather today and I usually run this course so I was used to it."

Prizes were awarded to the top male and female finishers and for the children's fun run as well. Tau Kappa Epsilon also provided food and refreshments for all participants.

Before the race began, all the runners and walkers – including the dog – lined up for a group photo during which they let out an "Autism Speaks!" cheer. The friendliness didn't stop there though. Through the entire race, members of the fraternity and other volunteers rooted for runners as they crossed the finish line.

Autism currently affects an estimated one out of every 110 children and one in every 70 boys. It has become more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. Government statistics suggest that the rate of autism is increasing 10 to 17 percent each year and doctors are unsure of the cause for this increase. No effective cure has been found for autism as of yet.

Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization. The organization is "dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families," according to its Web site.

"Autism Speaks is a great cause and they are a pleasure to work with," Houde said.

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