Officially chartered as a Registered Student Organization just less than a year ago, the University of Massachusetts chapter of Autism Speaks U has grown tremendously.
Autism Speaks U will be hosting its sixth annual Amherst Autism Speaks 5K Run and 3K Walk on Sunday. The event will take place in Kendrick Park, located in the center of Amherst, and will begin at 10:30 a.m.
In addition to the race, Autism Speaks U is planning multiple other events to take place on Sunday, including facepainting, a moon bounce, food, a DJ and prize raffles, following the race.
“The 5K is the main event, but we try to make it a full day for the community and students to come together for a great cause,” said Tamir Zinger, a senior finance major and treasurer of Autism Speaks U at the University.
During its first year, the Autism Speaks 5K Run and 3K Walk was hosted by the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and the Sigma Delta Tau sorority. With about 200 participants raising around $800, the event has grown substantially since then.
The following year, the event was run by the club Autism Speaks U, and its venue moved to Kendrick Park. The number of participants doubled and the event raised around $15,000. Last year, the event once again expanded largely, raising around $30,000.
Autism Speaks U’s event this year is estimated to be significantly larger than in years past, with over 1,000 pre-registered participants and just over $48,000 raised.
Aside from the run/walk, Autism Speaks U hosts a number of other activities throughout the year and serves as a highly active group on campus.
“We host meetings several times a month,” Zinger said. “In addition to that we try to get as much involvement with different organizations relating to learning possibilities.”
Autism Speaks U also co-hosts a number of events with the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Most recently, it co-hosted a fundraiser event at Froyo World. Members of Alpha Epsilon Pi will be attending the event this Sunday, in addition to the rest of the Greek community at the University, according to Zinger.
Autism Speaks U works closely with the University and community not only to raise awareness about autism, but also to interact with those who have learning disabilities.
“We sponsor a field trip for kids from a high school in Springfield for people with learning disabilities,” Zinger said. “We show the kids around, it’s huge for them. They really enjoy it—it’s one of the biggest events of the year for them.
“We just started some projects here for kids with disabilities. We’re just hanging out with them or having lunch with them,” Zinger added in regards to the club’s interactions with students with learning disabilities on campus.
The Autism Speaks 5K/3K is part of Autism Speaks U’s event planning for Autism Awareness Week. The club has already hosted a few events for the cause earlier this week and has plans for more events leading up to the race.
Autism Speaks U made blue smoothies, which were served at Late Night in Berkshire Dining Commons in honor of Autism Awareness week, on Wednesday night. In addition, the club is hosting Autism Awareness Trivia at the UPub on Thursday night from 5-8 p.m.
Katrina Borofski can be reached at [email protected]