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Autism Challenge community event planned for April 29

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Aroostook County – April is Autism Awareness Month and the Aroostook Autism Support Group is wrapping up the month with a large community event on Saturday, April 29, at Presque Isle Middle School.

“This community event will include our 4th annual Autism Challenge 5K and Kids Fun Run, but it has been expanded to offer more for the whole family,” says Lisa Brewer, co-founder of AASG. “We really wanted to create a festive atmosphere with lots of things happening as we celebrate and raise awareness for autism, which impacts many families in Aroostook County.”

The 1 Mile Kids Fun Run gets underway at 9:30 a.m.; children will run four laps around the track at PIMS. The cost to take part is $10, with all kids who compete earning a medal and Autism Challenge t-shirts for the first 25 to register. Runners and walkers will start at 10:00 a.m. from PIMS for a 5K course around the Presque Isle Industrial Park and ending back at the school. This is a non-timed event with a medal for all who compete. Awards will also be presented to the first male and female finishers, the oldest and youngest finishers, the best photo finish and the best dressed. T-shirts will be given to the first 50 to register; the cost of registration is $20.

Online preregistration for Autism Challenge 5K and the Kids Fun Run is encouraged at runsignup.com. Event day registrations are also welcome. Registration for both activities starts at 8:15 a.m. in the school gym. All proceeds from this event will benefit the Aroostook Autism Support Group.

Added to this year’s event is the Kids Safety Fair which AASG has held in the fall in years past. First responders from several organizations, including Border Patrol, Crown Ambulance, the Aroostook County Sherriff’s Office, Maine State Police, Presque Isle Police Department, the Presque Isle Fire Department, and the Maine Warden Service will be on hand and in uniform, along with their vehicles. Not only do children have a chance to meet the first responders, but they can climb into vehicles, explore equipment and learn more about the tools of the trade.

“We began offering this safety fair in a few years ago because we felt any child, when faced with an emergency, can experience a level of fear and anxiety brought on by strange lights, sounds, and the uniformed men and women that will surround them. Often the fear can possibly hinder the help that is trying to be given by the first responders. Recognizing this, we wanted to create an opportunity to allow children to meet first responders in a non-threatening environment to help familiarize them with not only the responders, but the gear, and vehicles as well, in hopes to alleviate some of the fears associated with them,” explains Maeghan Swanson, co-founder of AASG.

The Kids Safety Fair takes place from 9:30 a.m. until 12:00 noon. This event is free and open to the public. In addition to the emergency responders, various agencies will also be on hand with displays and information about programming and services offered.

Also added this year to the Autism Challenge will be a number of children’s carnival-type games from The United Way, as well as the always popular TAMC obstacle course. As in previous years, there will also be face painting by Wintergreen Arts, cotton candy, popcorn and more. These games and activities will all be free for participants. Donations will be accepted.

“The idea is to truly make this a community celebration,” says Swanson. “The community has been so supportive of our efforts, and this is a way that we can give back.”

Sponsors for the Autism Challenge Community Event include: TAMC, Graves Shop ‘n Save, County Super Spuds, MMG Insurance, State Farm – John Harvell, Emera Maine, Norstate Federal Credit Union and Townsquare Media.

Founded in 2013, the purpose of Aroostook Autism Support Group is to provide support to individuals and their families affected by autism. AASG aims to promote education and awareness to build a community that offers both hope and acceptance to all in need. The Autism Challenge is one way that the group raises money to help support their efforts throughout the year.