Students from the University of Central Florida will walk in support of autism awareness at the 4th annual Hearts for Autism Walk.
Participants from Knight PALS, a student organization that works to increase autism awareness and provide social opportunities for young adults with autism, will walk Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon to support the UCF Center for Autism & Related Disabilities. The walk will be held at Hagerty High School in Oviedo and will feature face painting, games and other activities.
“We have a lot of students at UCF that are affected by autism, even though that might not be evident to everyone,” said Karla Colon-Urquoila, the president and founder of Knight PALS. “By participating in the Hearts for Autism Walk, people can show their support for every individual in the UCF community.”
The Hearts for Autism Walk is hosted by Youth PALS, the high school chapter of the organization. In the four years since the Hearts for Autism Walk began, the program has raised funds to support community outings such as bowling, miniature golf and picnics for more than 1,500 individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.
“Just by coming out for a few hours, you are making a huge difference in another person’s life that may have never been given an opportunity,” said Judee Samuels, coordinator for UCF’s center. “We all deserve opportunities. This is a wonderful program that proves, together we can.”
Throughout the year, Knight PALS holds personal-development workshops, scavenger hunts and other events to build friendships and interpersonal skills among its members.
“These events enable individuals with autism spectrum disorders to enhance their social skills in a welcomed, supported environment,” said Samuels. “They change attitudes about disabilities and enable peers to observe that people with autism spectrum disorders can do the same if not better at something they do.”