Organizers of the ninth annual Breakthrough 5K Run/Walk for Autism on April 18 invite youths and adults who have disabilities to join in the race.
Those with autism and any other disabilities are invited to join more than 400 runners and walkers in the 5K run and walk and one-mile Fun Walk that supports the not-for-profit Breakthrough of Knoxville, which provides a range of services to help adults with autism to live as independently as possible.
The Breakthrough Run/Walk for Autism begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 18, at the Regal Cinemas Pinnacle Stadium 18 at Turkey Creek, in Farragut. The run, on a USATF-certified course, will have chip timing for the 5K.
More than 40 children and adults with autism and other disabilities participate in the race each year. It’s among the opportunities Breakthrough provides for those with autism to be involved in their community. These participants will receive special attention as “Breakthrough Buddies” during and after the race, and they may request that a volunteer accompany them on their run or walk. Teams are also invited to participate in the run.
Lori Tucker, co-anchor at WATE-TV, is honorary chair of the Breakthrough Run. Race directors are Judi Brookshire and Susan Lee, who each are parents of young adults with autism. They joined other parents in forming Breakthrough to improve the way services are provided to adults with autism in East Tennessee.
Breakthrough provides individualized services that offer quality care, a safe environment, family connection, and community involvement, according to Brookshire. Breakthrough has seven homes for adults with autism in its South Knoxville neighborhood, with the next phase of construction recently completed, bringing efficiency apartments and duplex housing.
The run takes place during Autism Awareness Month in April, focusing attention on the needs of those with autism, a lifelong disorder of the brain that has no known cause or cure. The Centers for Disease Control describes autism spectrum disorder as a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.
“The CDC has reported that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders has risen to 1 in 68 births from the 2008 estimate of 1 in 88, and 1 in 42 for boys, nearly five times higher than the 1 in 189 for girls,” Brookshire said. “We believe that the greater Knoxville area has more than 2,000 people with autism, and an estimated 1.5 million Americans have some form of autism.”
Breakthrough was the first such organization in Tennessee to provide services specifically for adults with autism. Besides residential services, Breakthrough offers in-home support, a Saturday therapeutic recreation program, day activities focusing on lifelong education, job skill development, and community integration. Additional homes and apartments for supported living are located throughout the greater Knoxville area. Breakthrough also hosts a social group for adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Brookshire’s son, Luke, participates in the race each year as a leader of the Fun Walk. Lee’s son, John Ryan, also participates by designing and making the “Robotz” figures that serve as race trophies each year and show up on the race T-shirts.
The Breakthrough Run is part of the Spring Fling Series of two local races that includes the Run for the Deaf, on May 2, raising funds for the Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville. Both races, which raise funds for worthy causes in the community, are in the Tennessee Grand Prix Series.
To register for individual races or the Spring Fling races on one form online, go to “events” at www.totalracesolutions.com or to https://runnerreg.us/autism2015/. The online registration deadline is April 11, and the mail deadline is April 4 for the Run for Autism. The registration fee is $25 by these deadlines and $30 afterwards, and $15 for K-12 students. Runners may register on race day by 7:30 a.m.
Download a registration form for Spring Fling races at the Knoxville Track Club’s website www.ktc.org or Breakthrough’s site at www.breakthroughknoxville.com. For more information on the sponsoring organizations, go to the Breakthrough site and www.tsdeaf.org.