I recently completed my sixth turn as the Volunteer Chair for the Walk Now for Autism Speaks Los Angeles Walk. This position is a committee position and I have to organize and post 300 volunteers for walk day.
The first time I volunteered for this position I signed on two months before the 2008 walk. I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into at that time. I ended up having a very busy and yet rewarding day.
Back then, the walk raised over one million dollars and had approximately 20,000 attendees. The 2013 walk raised over 1.8 million dollars and had over 40,000 people in attendance. That’s how much the walk has grown over the last six years. And, I’ve been there six times.
Generally, the volunteers I work with attend the walk with the spirit of helping out. Many are kids from high schools and the last two years we’ve had college-aged kids. Of course, there are the volunteers who want to help out because they feel volunteering is a great way to represent someone in their life who has autism.
Overall, my experience with all of these types of volunteers has been a positive one.
Same goes with the other committee members as well as the Autism Speaks staff. Autism Speaks treats their walks as priorities.
The walks raise a lot of money. But, they also spread awareness and provide valuable information to attendees through their 120 resource fair booths.
Many times, I have spoken with people who have attended the event for the first time. More often than not they have said to me that they couldn’t believe how many different organizations were present at the walk. They said they had walked away with information and fliers and contacts all obtained in one day and it was amazing for them.
The walk also features entertainment and heart-warming speeches. They have bounce houses, food, and cars or airplanes on display.
What I like best about the walk are the different people one event brings together every year. The walk is diverse in many ways. It brings not only different cultures but parents and families, service providers, school principals, school aides, teachers, and even the newbies (my term for the folks who have just gotten into the autism world).
We did not participate or even attend a walk when we were newbies, but I look back now and wished that we had attended one. I would have found tons of support.
The participants show up excited. It seems like each “team” or group of walkers are ready with group t-shirts and signs. Some tailgate from motor homes while others enjoy the resource fair.
Most walk the “long walk” all the way around the Rose Bowl grounds, while others prefer the “short walk” around the Rose Bowl concourse.
All in all, I continue to volunteer for this event each year because I believe in this event. The Autism Speaks Walk has grown each year for a reason. The quality of what one event manages to bring together in about four hours on time a year is amazing to me. Those four hours takes a lot of planning and effort by staff and many, many volunteers. But, it’s worth it.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”