Shenandoah Valley Autism Partnership To Host Seventh Annual 5K Run/Walk

Posted: March 27, 2014

Racers head out at the start of the 2013 5K Walk/Run for Autism. This year’s event will begin at 9:30 a.m. April 5. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R, File)

To the best of Lynda Chandler’s knowledge, Harrisonburg’s annual 5K Walk/Run for Autism is the biggest area event of its kind, which is wonderful for two reasons, she says.

For one, all of the people from the Shenandoah Valley Autism Partnership, which hosts the event, are volunteers. Secondly, all proceeds from the fundraiser benefit scholarships for Valley families.

“Autism’s not covered by a lot of health insurance plans,” explained Chandler, who handles public outreach for the group. So, area families affected by autism can receive funding to pay for services such as speech therapy or therapeutic horseback riding thanks to the scholarships, she said.

For the past several years, roughly 1,000 people have showed up for the annual event, which is now in its seventh year, and organizers have anticipated the yearly financial outcome to be about $25,000.  

The 5K is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. April 5, with check-in and on-site registration beginning at 7:15 a.m. and introductions starting at 9 a.m. It will take place at the Eastern Mennonite University Commons.

“We used to have it at Hillendale Park, but we’ve outgrown it,” Chandler explained.

Participants can pick up a pre-race packet on the evening of April 4 and before the race April 5. Refreshments will be available.  

Rates of autism across the country and in the Valley have risen dramatically in the past decade.

In 2004, when Chandler’s son, Valor, now 11, was diagnosed with a regressive form of autism, she remembers statistics reporting that about 1 in 166 children were diagnosed with autism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current rate is roughly 1 in 88 children has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

 “Just in the last few years, the numbers of kids with autism have skyrocketed,” Chandler said. “If you don’t know somebody now, today, chances are in the next year, it’ll impact your family, your neighborhood, your kids, your friends. It’s a growing concern.”

To register for the event, visit

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or

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