FLORENCE, S.C. — Returning for the eighth year Saturday is Pacing 4 Pieces Half Marathon and 5K Run/Walk, the largest fundraiser for All 4 Autism. The event, along with the Armstrong Wealth Piece Jam, takes place in downtown Florence.
All 4 Autism is an advocacy group “with the sole purpose of increasing awareness, resources and support for those of all ages with autism spectrum disorder in the Pee Dee” and their support families, according to its website.
Proceeds from Saturday’s race will help fund the Autism Resource Center of the Pee Dee, the first and only such center in the region, according to a Pacing 4 Pieces announcement.
Pacing 4 Pieces was created to bring awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and increase local support and resources for the ASD Community, said Jessica Brown, executive director.
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The idea for an autism support group for the Pee Dee began in 2005.
Brown and Amy Pennington, race director, were two mothers who in 2016 joined All 4 Autism as the first hired staff for the organization. They shared the vision of opening an Autism Resource Center for the Pee Dee area where mothers of children with autism could come to find support and resources.
Brown had numerous years of experience in the nonprofit sector and Pennington was a runner. It was Pennington who developed Pacing 4 Pieces to raise money for the resource center.
Brown’s son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, and at the time, there
were no resource centers in the area for families dealing with autism.
Brown said they try to emphasize to those caring for someone with autism that they are not alone in this journey. They have a saying “join hands to connect the pieces.”
Brown said she knew nothing about autism when her son was first diagnosed. She said when her son was diagnosed one in 163 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder; today that number is much higher.
Brown said awareness is much greater now.
She said a person can have varying degrees of autism on the spectrum. She said the deficits can be very different.
“There are no distinguishing physical characteristics,” she said.
One of the main things they do at All 4 Autism is provide family consultations.
“Our mission is to offer all services free to all,” Brown said. “And the race helps us do that.”
Brown said that in 2018 the center provided services to nearly 600 families, providing them everything from camp experiences to workshops, a monthly Coffee & Friends event, social groups, educational opportunities and support for siblings.
The Autism Resource Center provides free resources, support programs and referral services.
Workshops and training are offered free and cover a variety of topics on autism special need, parenting and inclusion.
For those who don’t wish to participate in the race on Saturday, but still want to show their support for the local ASD community, join them for the Piece Jam. The fun begins at 10 a.m. and is open and free to the public. There will be music, food and beverage vendors, Kids Zone, and more.
For more information, contact Brown at 843-472-5215 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.all4autism.org.