ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Walk Now for Autism Speaks fundraising event is coming up next Saturday, May 18 at Warwood School in Wheeling. Check-in starts at 9 a.m.; race time is 10.
Participating teams will descend on the school from across the valley.
Most teams, like Team STC, will be sporting new matching t-shirts to display community pride and team unity.
It just so happens Team STC's t-shirts were designed by 11-year-old St. Clairsville resident Matthew Horton.
Horton thought up and designed the t-shirt, which was then submitted for printing to Jenkins Sporting Goods in town.
He is the son of Clayton and Jill Caprita of St. Clairsville and is a 5th-grade student at St. Clairsville Middle School.
Last year, Horton was invited by Kara Erwin, the applied behavior analysis therapist for the Union Local School District to partake in Team Union Local's festivities for the Walk Now race.
After seeing what the team, and race itself, did to further the advancement of Autism awareness, Jill Caprita decided to start a St. Clairsville team.
It's a cause that hits home for Caprita.
Her son is like any other 11-year-old. He likes video games, swimming, drawing and building. And a little more than a year ago, he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form on the Autism spectrum.
Caprita feels that if she had known more about Autism during the earlier stages of her son's life then maybe he could have received some earlier intervention.
Because of that, Team STC was created.
"We want to bring Autism Awareness to other parents whose children might be experiencing the same symptoms as our son, yet don't recognize the signs in order to have their child tested."
With little time to prepare for the 2012 Wheeling race, Team STC raised $406, close to its $500 goal, in less than two months time.
This year, Team STC, up to 25 official members from nine in 2012, has raised more than $2,500 with more to come.
Caprita and her team believe that spreading Autism awareness also helps to counteract bullying.
"If children are taught more about the behaviors of their autistic peers, they may be more likely to be understanding of them and less likely to call them 'crazy or freaks.'"
According to the latest Centers for Disease Control statistics, 1 out of every 50 school-age children are diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum.
Many people know someone effected by Autism yet far less are familiar with the signs, especially for those children higher on the Autism spectrum.
Through efforts to spread Autism awareness, this lack of knowledge is combated head on.
Team STC has a Facebook page, providing info not only on fundraising efforts for the team but also providing info and links and Autism itself.
Team STC wishes to thank all of its supporters, especially all the staff of the St. Clairsville Elementary and Middle Schools, and in particular, Gwen Holstein first grade teacher at the Elementary for her facilitation of "Light It Up Blue" Day, Dawn Daubenmeyer 5th grade Intervention Specialist at the Middle School, and Deedra Balgo and Melissa Reinbold who head-up the Belmont County chapter of the Autism Society of Ohio.
"We feel so blessed to have these ladies on our side who know so much about Autism and who are always willing to go above and beyond for any need you have at any given time you ask," Caprita added.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org