Contact Dawn Insanalli, director of Public Relations, at (914) 637-2726 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jessica Walberg
Ionian Staff Writer
On Oct. 4 members of the Iona community gathered together for an important event with one thing in mind: raising awareness for autism. These individuals set aside time on their Sunday morning to participate in the "Autism Speaks" awareness walk at Jones Beach. Among those walking for Iona included members of the Speech and Hearing Club, Tara Knights Society, Education Club and Psychology Club.
"What inspired me most while helping to organize this event was the kindness and understanding of Iona College students," Psychology Club President Jessica Carrique said.
According to "Autism Speaks," autism currently affects one in 91 children. It is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. and it is predicted that this year, more children will be diagnosed with autism than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined. Currently, there is no medical detection or cure for autism, but these Iona students walked with hopes of someday changing that.
Approximately 100 people, made up of students, family and friends, walked under the name of Iona College. Some of these walkers had some connection to someone affected by autism, whether it is a family member, friend or acquaintance. However, many of those who participated walked simply with the intention of raising awareness for this important cause. After all, autism has received less than five percent of the research funding than many less-prevalent childhood diseases.
"I think it's fair to say that everyone can name at least one person they know who is impacted by autism," Carrique said. "Iona College is now a proud participant in the fight against the disorder."
Prior to the day of the walk those who participated worked to raise awareness and money. On the day of the walk, according to Speech Club member Barbara Del Giudice, the Iona team handed in a total of $810. But their fundraising did not stop there. With online and outside donations included, the Iona group raised an approximate total of $1500.
Again, the Speech and Hearing Club was 1 of 4 campus organizations to participate in the walk. Club President Jennifer Hensch found the cause to be particularly important to Speech and Hearing Club majors for various reasons. For one, they believe that as future speech pathologists and audiologists, it is an important cause to work for as it might be something they're exposed to in their future work.
"With the rates of autism on the rise and the importance of early intervention offered by professionals in our field of study, I thought it was a perfect choice," Hensch said. "I also considered how nearly every person in our club most likely has been affected by autism in some way, shape or form."
Autism awareness has been increasing steadily over the years, but more work can still be done. Model and actor Jenny McCarthy has been said by many to be an influential autism activist. McCarthy's son was diagnosed with autism in 2005. Since then, she has done an admirable job of raising awareness for autism and raising funds toward finding a cure. Additionally, McCarthy claims that she as a mother helped to "heal her son." Some students feel that her activism has been a positive influence because it attracts attention to the disorder. However, others feel that while she may have intended to give mothers hope, she may have actually given them false hope.
"I for one do not agree with Jenny McCarthy's claims that she cured her son of autism by changing his diet," Hensch said. "But I do believe celebrities provide publicity for autism and raise awareness more than any non-celebrity could. I think the increased awareness is a direct result of walks like the one we participated in on Sunday."
Regardless, the students who participated in the walk urge other students to get involved in raising awareness, even if it is in a small, subtle way such as simply sharing information with others. Tara Knights Society President Sarah Corbett agrees with this philosophy. "I would like other students to know that whether or not you know someone affected by autism, you can be an advocate by merely spreading awareness," Corbett said. "If every person we spoke to learned one new fact that they didn't know the day before, then we accomplished our goal."
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Public Relations Office
Iona College, 715 North Avenue, New Rochelle, N.Y. 10801
Office: (914) 637-2726
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