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Taking a virtual walk for a good cause

By Chris Lewis | Oct. 15

Like many groups, the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador is doing things a little differently this year due to COVID-19.

Each year, the province’s Autism Society uses October, which is Autism Awareness month, as a chance to kickstart its Active for Autism campaign. The campaign aims to promote physical activity in the province through different fundraising events.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans for the Autism Society, and virtually every organization and event country-wide.

Active for Autism is normally an event where the public gathers at the Autism Society’s building in St. John’s. From there, participants take a stroll around a nearby pond in groups, or individually.

This year, however, that walk has turned into a collective walk around the province.

As one of the Society’s bigger events of the year, campaign leader Aimee Coles said they knew that they had to figure out a way to make sure it could go ahead this year. So, they decided to go ahead and try their hand at holding a virtual walk.

How, exactly, a virtual walk works is not quite as complex as it may sound.

“We’ve actually been trying to expand more of our services across the province anyway,” said Coles. “So, we tried to tie that into what we do with this event, since things obviously can’t go ahead the way they normally do.”

The basics of the event are no different. Participants create and register their teams, but instead of taking part in a coordinated walk on one day, the event has instead been stretched out across the entirety of October.

Walk the Rock, as the event has now been dubbed, will see participants tracking their kilometers online, and can be done on each participants’ own time.

“All the contributions from Walk the Rock will all go into the programs and support services that we have all across the province — things like family support groups and community-based programming like employment programs,” Coles said. “Everything from this event will go right back into those areas…It’s definitely going to look a little different this year. Under normal circumstances, we have this big event with teams showing up in their t-shirts and all kinds of fun things like that. This time, it’s something that’s more geared towards doing things on your own time. You could track kilometers from your morning run, evening jog with the family … anything.”

Coles noted that there are still some families and teams doing the regular route, just within their own personal bubble.

“There’s all kinds of different ways that we’re seeing people do this, which is great,” she said. “That’s what we want, because at the end of the day this is all about raising awareness for autism, so seeing people do this in different ways, in their own communities, it’s very nice to see.”

Walk the Rock officially began on Thursday, Oct. 1 and participants will continue their walks and runs up until the end of the month.

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