By Debra Forman
The Autism Cares Foundation’s Race for Resources attracted a record number of runners and supporters on a chilly autumn day; but everyone involved said they came with warm hearts.
More than 2,500 participants gathered at Tyler State Park’s Center for the Arts in Richboro to run, walk, learn, connect, and share the message of love and acceptance for children, teens, and adults with autism, and other special needs, and their families.
This was the largest turnout, and most successful race to date, and included 80 teams; many of them ran in honor of a loved one with autism; who are involved with the non-profit Autism Cares Foundation.
So far, $115,000 was raised at the event; and contributions are continuing to come in. The proceeds of the event are going to buy a van to transport the Adults in their Day Program to local job training opportunities along with funding the 200+ free activities and events that are offered throughout the year.
“It is truly phenomenal to see this overwhelming support for the Autism Cares Foundation and our Race for Resources,” said Co-founder Frank Kuepper, of the Saturday, November 12, event.
“So many people came out to support our organization and everything that we do, and they have gone above and beyond,” Kuepper said. “We are deeply proud that this event grows larger and larger each year.” The first Race attracted less than 100 participants.
“One of the reasons we get excited about the Race for Resources,” he added, “is that it is the one time each year that we get to see our family friends and neighbors who support our efforts and show our community how vast your support is.”
This family-friendly event had something for everyone. In addition to the 5K, 10K, and Fun Walk, there was an Autism Expo, with more than 30 service providers.
Some of the highlights of the day were the Autism Cares Foundation’s Glee Club singing the National Anthem, music from Dolan’s DJ’s, a video game bus, bounce house, ACCT Philly Animal Rescue, a custom built autism motorcycle, the Philly Phanatic, and much more.
An enthusiastic CBS 3 News Anchor Jim Donovan helped gear up the race. “It is a very chilly Saturday morning here at Tyler State Park where I am about to kick-off the 7th Annual Race for Resources for the Autism Cares Foundation. Today is a great day for a Race. I urge everyone to get involved. This is an amazing organization so let’s have even more people next year.”
Donovan was front and center when he joined Autism Cares Foundation Co-founders and loving parents Linda and Frank Kuepper, and Race Chairman Fred Sciascia, when the runners began to stretch to prepare for the big event.
“It is gratifying to see so many familiar faces and also extremely exciting to see so many new ones,” Sciascia said. “In 2017, in order to provide the level of service that everyone has come to know over the years, this program will continue to expand.”
This includes the addition of Supported Employment Services. “We look forward to opening Autism Cares Foundation Chapters in our surrounding communities,” Sciascia told the Race participants. “I want to thank everyone here for making this day such a success.”
More than 125 volunteers, including individuals, families, community groups, colleges, and high schools came out to make sure the event ran smoothly.
These volunteers included: Bucks County Community College, Holy Family College, Kids 4 Community, the Autism Cares Foundation Club at Council Rock North, Autism Awareness Club from Council Rock South, Open Arms Club at Council Rock, Phi Sigma Pi National Honor’s Fraternity from Temple University, and the Penn State Cheerleaders, who has been supporting the race from the very beginning.
“We just love coming to the Race for Resources,” said Penn State Cheer leading Coach Erica Franzzo. “Everyone comes up to each of us for hugs and they are so happy to see us here; so it makes us feel extremely proud to come out and help.”
There was also a wide variety of scrumptious foods for a gourmet lunch provided by race sponsors the Bloomin’ Group. Everyone enjoyed pasta, salad, chicken, steak and salmon that were served by Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Bonefish Grill.
This year, the Autism Cares Foundation provides more than 200 free events, programs and life enrichment opportunities to more than 900 families in the Tri-State area.
The biggest extension of the Autism Cares Foundation family is the recent addition of the Adult Services Division, which is offering Day Habilitation and Home and Community Habilitation Services to 15 adults with special needs.
At the Race for Resources, there were many beaming parents wearing team T-shirts who had tears in their eyes when they spoke lovingly about their sons and daughters with autism, and what the Autism Cares Foundation has meant to their families.
Proudly wearing his red Team Tyler T-shirt Brad Ferrara, of Holland, said his family has been involved in all seven of the Race for Resources.
This year his team alone had 60 runners in support of his son, Tyler, now 11. “We’ve been so lucky to help this great cause. It’s really about the children, and all the love everyone has for them,” Ferrara said. “My family and I will keep coming back.”