At least 200 people turned out Sunday morning on the Coney Island Boardwalk for the Shorefront Y’s Sixth Annual Walk for Autism.
Participants gathered outside the New York Aquarium, at West 10th Street, to register, grab their t-shirts, ribbons and prepare to walk proudly down to Brighton Beach.
The march raised money for the Shorefront Y’s special needs programs, as well as for some of its partner organizations. However, Sue Fox, executive director for the Shorefront Y, said the walk was about more than raising money.
“The main purpose of this is to not have autism be a hidden secret — something that’s feared and misunderstood. This brings families together and lets them know they are not alone,” she explained.
Jesse Rivera, whose grandson has autism, said it was important for families to be visible in order to raise awareness about the need for better programs for special needs children.
“People need to hear our voices,” he said. “So they know we need more ways help these kids: better schools and better programs.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism, a developmental disorder that causes difficulty with social interaction, affects one of every 68 children in the United States.
The Shorefront Y currently offers special needs programming for children between the ages of five and 13. The programs provide homework assistance, movement and music exploration, and plenty of opportunities for exercise. They also have a summer day camp.
The Shorefront Y partnered with the Marks JCH of Bensonhurst, UJA-Federation, Butler Foundation, and Department of Health for the walk.
Democratic District Leader Ari Kagan and City Councilman Chaim Deutsch also showed up to support the marchers.
“Here in New York, we take care of everyone,” said Deutsch. “I really want to thank the Shorefront Y for being a leader in helping give autistic children and their parents the support they need.”