Time to move and get ready for the 2016 Autism Speaks Walk - | WBTV Charlotte

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Time to move and get ready for the 2016 Autism Speaks Walk

The important work is underway to turn zMax Dragway in Concord into a place of celebration, advocacy and fundraising for the 1 in 68 children who are on the autism spectrum.

The Autism Speaks Walk is set for October 22nd and the drive is on right now to register walk teams. 

"Autism Speaks replaces the hopelessness," said Dan Johnson.

Major Dan Johnson is a 20 year veteran of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office, but more importantly he is Tyler's dad.  

"Tyler is my 1 in 68," said Johnson. "But when we got the diagnosis I didn't know what that meant." 

Johnson says he and his wife set off to learn more, but it was overwhelming.

"We found tons and tons of information that meant nothing to me until we found Autism Speaks," said Johnson. "They gave us practical advice."

Tyler is now a thriving 15-year-old who just started high school. 

"I was told when he was diagnosed that I'll have a son who won't hug me," said Johnson. "Now I have an every day high school student." 

Progress is being made because of the $23 million raised last year at Autism Speaks Walks held across the country.  

"The money fuels the work done by Autism Speaks," said Autism Speaks National Walk Director Christie Godowksi. "It all starts with the power of one individual." 

It's why the call is going out to start walk teams to support the Greater Charlotte area Autism Walk in October.  Johnson is the co-chair of the Greater Charlotte event that has grown into the largest autism related fundraiser in the Carolinas. He says it is rewarding work, not only for his family, but for all those touched by the developmental disorder.

"It's amazing how many people are impacted (by autism)," said Johnson. "Getting more involved with the cause has been an incredible adventure." 

Money raised has funded nearly $11 million in cutting edge research over the past 10 years. It's also lead to legislative victories like the ABLE Act and state health insurance reforms.  Locally in the Carolinas, more than $570,000 has been given to providers in the form of "Family Services" grants, more than 250 iPads to have been give to families in need to help with communication and more than 2000 "100-day Tool Kits" have been distributed over the past five years.  


Learn more about starting your walk team by clicking here. Click here to learn more about autism and Autism Speaks. 

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