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Local Walkathons Raise Awareness, Funds for Autism, Parkinson's Charities

By Nina Schutzman

Two Dutchess County fundraising walks will help raise future awareness and money for programs and research funding, participants said.

About 4,000 people showed up Sunday for the 12th annual Autism Walk & Expo of the Hudson Valley Region, held at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck. In the City of Poughkeepsie, about 400 participants came out to the third annual "Walk Over Water" for Parkinson's disease on the Walkway Over the Hudson.

To date, more than $1 million has been raised by the autism walk, with last year's totals around $85,000.

Autism is a spectrum developmental disorder, which means symptoms can vary in combination and severity. Early signs can include speech delays, poor eye contact, sensory issues and extreme tantrums without cause, according to organization literature.

"Autism is an epidemic," said Karen Kosack, walk founder and board member of the Hudson Valley subchapter of National Autism Society of America. "The most important thing is to get your child correctly diagnosed and then in treatment right away.

"To make sure our loved ones aren't judged," she said, "we'll keep passing on the eternal torch of awareness."

Pleasant Valley author Jesse Saperstein helped open the ceremonies and signed copies of his book, "Atypical: Life with Asperger's in 201/3 Chapters," about his own struggles.

"This walk has grown extremely large since it started," he said. "We had a great day for it."

The Poughkeepsie walk was hosted by the Parkinson's Support Group of the Mid-Hudson Valley, an affiliate of Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects nearly 10 million people worldwide, according to group literature.

There's research being conducted, thanks to donations and other funding, but no cure, organizers said.

Last year, the walk raised $20,000, and group Chairwoman Nancy Redkey said this year's donations, which were up to $10,000 last week, will roll in for the next couple of months.

Some walked back and forth across the Walkway. Some with more severe Parkinson's symptoms rode in wheelchairs.

About 35 students from Siena College in Loudonville, Albany County, who have been studying Parkinson's said they came to support the local group.

"We'll push wheelchairs for people who need help," 18-year-old student Olivia Fiscaletti said.

East Fishkill resident Ken Chatlos, 71, was forced to retire as a remodeling contractor after being diagnosed with Parkinson's six years ago.

He loves spending time with his granddaughters, Maggie, 9, and Molly Veach, 6.

Maggie's Junior Girl Scouts troop made birdhouses to raise money for the walk.

All funds raised for donations go to Parkinson's research, the group said. It's the only fundraiser the local chapter does all year, Redkey said.

The best part about the event is the awareness it brings to younger people, Chatlos said.

"Look around at the hundreds of people, picking up literature ... learning more about what this disease is," Chatlos said.

Source Date: Apr 29 2013
Source Publication: Poughkeepsie Journal
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