SEELEY – April is Autism Awareness Month, and in an effort to raise local awareness, the Children’s Foundation of Imperial Valley held its First Annual Autism 5K Run/walk Saturday morning at Sunbeam Lake Park in Seeley.
Founded in September 2015, the Children’s Foundation of Imperial Valley (CFIV) a non-profit organization created for the sole purpose of providing resources to underserved children who reside in Imperial Valley in addition to the families affected by autism. CFIV aims to promote education and awareness to build a community that offers both hope and acceptance to all in need.
“This was an endeavor that began with my colleague Angelica Bernal and I,” said Dr. John Dalle, the group’s founder and a radiologist at El Centro Regional Medical Center. “We wanted to do something to help children. As a radiologist physician I’d see these kids show up at the hospital everyday, underserved and in need of help, so Angelica and I decided to create this foundation become more involved with autistic kids, so that they have the ability to reach their full potential.”
“This is our first event and it has taken off, much more than we expected. Looking around and seeing so many families out here is a testament that people do really care. I’m very proud and this is simply wonderful,” said Dalle, with tears in his eyes.
The purpose of the event was not only to create awareness, but also to raise funds to benefit local Imperial County families affected by autism and to build community bonds between Valley families with autistic children.
“Our main goal today is to meet with people, share ideas and come together and find out where the deficiencies are,” said Dalle.
“My family and I are participating today, supporting the cause,” said Jesus Martinez, father to an autistic child and Calexico resident. “Autism is something fairly new and a lot of people have a misconception and think of the movie ‘Rain Man,’ not knowing in reality there are many different spectrums of it from moderate to severe and that each one has its own personality. I am glad to see so many people out here supporting it, and hope that it continues to not only support autistic children and families, but also to educate the community.”
Master of Ceremony for the event was Manuel Gonzalez. Gonzalez said he was happy helping out with the event and especially for such a great cause.
“I am out here supporting my students and families,” said Claudia Morales, a special education teacher at Mains Elementary School. “Today, April 2, is National Autism Awareness Day. I’m glad to see so many people out here, and hope it continues because this is what the Valley needs to create awareness. People need to learn to respect, to understand and love these children and understand what parents go through.”
The Calexico Food 4 Less team joined forces with the CFIV, ensuring the first-time event was a huge success with over 400 Imperial Valley residents participating in the run/walk around the lake.
“I am extremely thankful for the many wonderful businesses that — without knowing who we were, because we are fairly new — just extended their help” said Dalle.
According to Dr. Dalle, all monies raised during the event will stay in the Valley to support local children and families.
Joining the fun were characters dressed as Star War’s Chewbacca and Princess Leia who read books to children underneath a tree, and Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid who took pictures with those present.
Participants received an event t-shirt and first, second and third place winners in both adult and children categories received gift cards donated by local restaurants Chili’s Grill and Bar, Burgers & Beer and Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill.
Families also enjoyed a variety of foods, games and a silent auction.
Other local business that assisted with the event included Z-Global, Calexico Food 4 Less, Rogers & Rogers, Motiva Associates, Snap Fitness and Sunny Days based out of San Diego.
The group’s next fundraiser will be a pancake breakfast held in May with the exact date and time announced at a later time.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are detected at an early age and are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
To learn more about autism, visit www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism[envira-gallery id=”74933″]