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SOAR Walk raises autism awareness

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Many members of the Northshore community joined New Orleans Saints’ mascot, Gumbo, at North Oaks Park on Saturday, April 14, to participate in the 2nd annual Autism Awareness Walk and Family Fun Day. The event was sponsored by Strengthening the Outcome with Autism Resources (SOAR), an initiative of the Northshore Families Helping Families (NFHF), and lasted from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Keith Allen and Randy Ferrera hosted the event, which involved several forms of entertainment including a DJ, food booth, raffles, games and a silent auction. Gumbo kicked-off the walk at 10:30, and families commenced to the numerous other activities offered after completing the walk. Space walks, face painting and temporary tattoos were also available to children.

There were many ways to become involved in the event, such as walking as an individual or with a team, donating and becoming a sponsor or volunteering.

“This is our second year and it’s a great time for people to get together and bring awareness to autism and also be able to be with family and friends in an environment that you know is very accepting,” said Suzanne Lamb, former teacher and mother of a child with autism.

Autism is a disorder that affects the ability to communicate, interact and behave inappropriately among various other effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1 of 88 children could be affected by autism, a  increase in the past 20 years.   

All proceeds from the event will be used to support SOAR and autism awareness, research and efforts. The earnings from the walk and fun day will help purchase books for the SOAR library, conduct workshops, bring in speakers, sponsor symposiums and provide services and resources to families who have members that live with autism.

The event was successful and included 30 teams of different sizes ranging from three to 50 members.

“Our whole team participated,” said Amanda Hensley, Maurepas softball coach. “One of our teammates’ sisters has autism, and she has been an inspiration for us. We started our season with a quote on our back: ‘Some people would love to walk a mile in your cleats.’ It helped the girls to think about things other than themselves and to really want to play with everything they had.”

Last year the event raised $35,000. The walk will be held again during the spring next year, and all are encouraged to participate.

“This is something we want to do every year,” added Hensley. “And it wasn’t too bad at all being eight months pregnant.”

For more information, photos, or upcoming events contact North Shore Families Helping Families at 985-875-0511, email [email protected] or visit

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