I have had the great fortune to work with the Autism Society –Greater Harrisburg Area Chapter (“the Chapter”) for the past couple of years and I must say that it truly means a lot to me to be involved with this great organization. I began my involvement with them because my son has autism and supporting the Chapter felt like something that I needed to do. With my growing number of followers, I decided blogging about their most important event of the year, Logan’s Run and Walk for Autism, just made sense. I had the opportunity to interview the director of this event and former President of the Chapter’s Board of Directors, Georgia Rackley about the importance of Logan’s Run and Walk to the Autism Society –Greater Harrisburg Area Chapter. Logan’s Run and Walk will take place April 14, at 9 AM on City Island in Harrisburg. It is important to note that this event is the backbone of the Chapter’s yearly funding. In fact, almost half of their operating budget comes directly from monies raised at this event.

The first question I asked was: How would you rate the success of the 2011 walk? According to Georgia, the 2011 Walk was a success, with both total money and total attendance being up from last year (2010). It is difficult to determine exactly how successful it was, but increases in these two major categories represent a success at any event. She went on to say, “The real growth that the Chapter noted was from the grass-roots movements. Many independent teams fielded showed an increase in participation and donations. Social media can play a major role in this continued expansion.” As this blog does focus around my views on social media, I would like to comment on this statement. One of the great things about social media is its ability to allow people to band together in grass-roots style movements. Even something like making an event page on Facebook allows you an outlet to discuss causes you support with your friends and family. I would hope that this trend continues for Logan’s Run and Walk as social media is one major advantage available to non-profits that simply wasn’t available just a few short years ago. The non-profits that use this to their advantage are the ones who will see major positive changes in the coming years.

The next question I asked was: What is the most difficult challenge to the coordination of this event? Georgia noted several challenges coordinating this event, including:

– Finding sponsors on a yearly basis

  • While some sponsors support the walk from year to year, it is always a challenge to find new sponsors to replace previous sponsors that do not participate on a yearly basis.
  • The Autism Society – Greater Harrisburg Area Chapter has always been proud of its ability to maintain strong relationships with donors and sponsors.

– Many of the participants/volunteers have children with ASD

  • The inherent nature of ASD leads participants and volunteers to have last-minute issues/emergencies that cannot be foreseen.

I’m sure there are other challenges associated with the event, but these were specifically the ones that Georgia spoke of. I have helped coordinate events in the past and it is always the things that you don’t foresee becoming your biggest issue.

I wanted to follow-up questions about the walk with some general questions about what functions the Chapter serves. Georgia noted that by national mandate, the Autism Society does not provide “services”. They do provide support for families and individuals affected by autism. The Autism Society –Greater Harrisburg Area Chapter provides an outlet for families with questions to reach out and have someone to talk to. The Society offers family friendly events that offer an opportunity for families impacted by autism to network with one another. To me, this seems to be one of the most important things. Not one family asks to be impacted by autism, and it takes a network of people to offer support and guidance. Often, families of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) don’t know where to turn. The Chapter offers an outlet to any family impacted by autism. They also offer groups for adults and teens with autism. These groups directly help individuals with ASD a chance to socialize with their peers, something not always offered by other programs. Some of the trips for the adult group from previous years include: Gettysburg Battlefields, Knoebels, dinner at local restaurants and movie nights. Inherently, ASD impacts an individual’s ability to not only communicate effectively, but also being able to make friends with peers. The teen and adult groups sponsored by the Chapter directly help both of these areas.

Being that April is Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to close the interview with some other interesting facts. Georgia was quick to point out that while Autism Awareness Month is extremely important, the Chapter wants their focus to be on a daily and weekly awareness, not just one month out of the year. Georgia did note that Autism Awareness month is positive and should be viewed as such because the amount of individuals that have increased awareness is greater during April than any other month.

I wish Logan’s Run and Walk for Autism another great year in 2012. Please refer to http://www.autismharrisburg.com for more information about the walk itself as well as information about the programs and meetings that the Autism Society – Greater Harrisburg Area Chapter offers. I also encourage any questions about the event or the Chapter in the comments section of this blog. I will be more than happy to answer questions or put you in touch with someone who can. And finally, please help this great event by walking, running, volunteering, or even creating your own team. Individuals with ASD count on our continued support and we must make it a point to be there for them!

Special thanks to Georgia Rackley for her help with this interview. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to do this!

Paul M. Miller