Autism Center 5K race to offer help to families

The Autism Collaborative Center is raising money through its first 5K fundraiser. The money will be used to help local families living with Autism. The race is set for Saturday.

Spring is here, and with spring comes April, Autism Awareness Month.

As such, the Autism Collaborative Center is having its first ever “Stronger Together: 5K Run, Walk, Roll for the ACC” on Saturday.

“Funds raised will directly benefit local families living with autism through our scholarship fund,” said Amy Sanderson, director of programs and services for the ACC. “Benefits will also provide assistance with the cost of therapies and programs like the summer S.P.L.A.S.H Camp.”

Race day is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. with a one-mile run for children 12 and younger. The 5K race for those 12 and older will commence at 9 a.m., with the course starting and finishing at the ACC, located at the Fletcher School Building at 1055 Cornell Road in Ypsilanti.

The race will take runners through EMU’s main campus and part of Ypsilanti. Hanson’s Running Store will direct it.

The Autism Collaborative Center was started in May 2009 with the vision “individuals with autism will receive the services needed to lead fulfilling lives as independently as possible within their communities,” according to its Web site.

According to Jim Lyddy, executive director of the ACC, the concept for the ACC began with discussions between EMU and St. Joseph Mercy hospital. Both organizations were interested in doing more for autism, and it was out of those joint discussions the Autism Collaborative Center was born.

Truly collaborative, the ACC works closely with about a dozen other autism centers, therapists, neurologists, nutritionists and support groups for families.

Services the ACC offer are essential to families and individuals with autism – now more than ever. If 4 million children are born in the United States every year, approximately 36,500 children will eventually be diagnosed with a form of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Furthermore, recent studies have estimated the lifetime cost to care for an individual with autism is $3.2 million.

According to Lyddy, autism is a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first 3 years of life. Furthermore, he says, “Most autistic children are perfectly normal in appearance, but may communicate in a significantly different manner than other children.”

Fortunately the Autistic Collaborative Center offers education and hopes to raise awareness. In the summer the ACC hosts S.P.L.A.S.H! Camp, which stands for Sensory, Play and Music, Language, Art, Social Learning, Healthy Fun.

The camp is designed and supervised by the ACC’s multi-disciplinary team, and camp attendee’s “days will be filled with socially engaging, sensory-rich, age-appropriate and creative small group recreation opportunities among peers/friends of similar ages and abilities,” according to the group’s website.

The program was developed to offer a break for children with autism and their parents, who receive little support once the school year ends. Some of the program is focused on children of different ages with autism, according to Lyddy. Another spotlight is put on “integrating children with autism with typical kids in a traditional summer camp experience.”

The S.P.L.A.S.H! program is why this upcoming race fundraiser is so important to the community.

Participants may preregister for the race online at, or begin on-site registration Saturday at 8:00 a.m. The entry fee for the one-mile kids’ “fun run,” being held on a separate trail, is $15 and the 5K Run/Walk/Roll for adults is $25. The top three racers from each of the seven age groups will win prizes.

If you are unable to race Saturday but would still like to donate to the Autistic Collaborative Center, or for more information, please visit the Autistic Collaborative Center at, email the organization at, or call (734)485-2890.

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