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Autism Support Center set to host virtual 5K

ELKINS — In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the West Virginia Autism Support Center has decided to host its annual 5K virtually, giving participants an opportunity to connect during this time of social distancing.

Participants are encouraged to get active any time between now and April 17, the original date of the annual Light Up 5K fundraiser, which was postponed, with safety concerns relating to the COVID-19 crisis as a top priority.

Erin Browning, chairperson of the WVASC board of directors, was inspired to create the event after being saddened while outlining details for patients who receive communication and swallowing therapy.

“People on the spectrum have challenges with social connection as a result of the characteristics of autism. The families caring for people with autism also face a set of obstacles that the ordinary family would not understand,” Browning said in an email to The Inter-Mountain.

“There are already so few spaces in our community that feel comfortable, welcoming, and inclusive for these individuals and their families, so we did not want quarantine and social distancing to put them even further into isolation.”

Brown worked with Sydney Leary, the Autism Support Center’s AmeriCorps volunteer, in order to organize the organization’s first virtual 5K.

According to Browning, Leary “flawlessly” executed the creation of a Facebook group for the event, which gained 80 members within its first two hours online.

“With a tiny following of 740 people in a small community this is a huge percentage of people who obviously want to move their bodies and connect for a good cause!” said Browning.

In order to participate, all one must do is join the WVASC 5K Facebook group, go on a walk, run or play in the backyard while using all of the recommended social distancing precautions, take a photo or video while staying physically and mentally healthy and post to the group using the hashtags #wvascvirtual5K and #flattenthecurve.

“We are thrilled and know that this is one tiny need, social connection, that will make a huge difference in a chaotic time for the families we serve and the people who care about those families,” said Browning.

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