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Walking the walk for Autism in Amherst

Teams participate in Walk the Walk for Autism on June 22, the major fundraiser for the Cumberland chapter of Autism Nova Scotia. There were numerous events at the Amherst Curling Club before participants headed out for either a one or five-kilometre walk.
Teams participate in Walk the Walk for Autism on June 22, the major fundraiser for the Cumberland chapter of Autism Nova Scotia. There were numerous events at the Amherst Curling Club before participants headed out for either a one or five-kilometre walk. - Darrell Cole

‘Mason’s thick file landed on the desk of some amazing people’

AMHERST, N.S. —

As soon as his son wrapped his little hand and looked at him for the first time, Waylin Smith knew he’d do anything to give him the best life.

Two years later when Mason was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, he realized there was only so much he could do.
“I realized good intentions could only go so far if you lacked the tools to give him the support he needed. Suddenly as parents, we felt hopelessness creeping in and we sought help,” Smith during the Amherst Walk the Walk for Austim in Amherst on June 22. “Mason’s thick file landed on the desk of some of amazing humans. Patience, love and complete abandonment of the expectations of normalcy were what we’d already learned as parents. What we lacked were the tools. These amazing humans brought us the tools to bring our son out and now he shines the light unto the world whereever he goes.”

Smith said people with the Cumberland Chapter of Autism Nova Scotia helped bring out words from Mason when he had none and helped give him independence. They also gave them, as parents, the ability to be caregivers that they vowed to be the moment their children stole their hearts.

“Because of the tools they gave us we’ve been able to help Mason unlock his greatness and sit here today confident that we are able to continue to do so,” Smith said.

Before the walk, that included both one and five-kilometre routes, there were bouncy castles, music, food, games and vendors all in support of the Cumberland chapter. There was also a silent auction with the hope of raising at least $10,000 in support of the group’s programs and services.

Tonia Hyslop, president of the Cumberland chapter, said the 10th anniversary was all about the community supporting individuals and families diagnosed with autism. She said five community child-care facilities were on hand to provide fee activities.

“Most of the activities are free, although we were accepting donations because this is our largest fundraiser of the year,” Hyslop said. “All the money raised stays in Cumberland County

Hyslop said the Amherst Police Department, Casey Concrete and the Truemanville Fire Department participated allowing the children to talk on the radio, see a fire engine up close and sit in the driver’s seat of a cement mixer.

The feedback from the day was very positive, she said. Usually with community and family-friendly events like Canada Day it’s sometimes difficult for children with autism and their families.

“Sometimes children with autism have varying levels of comfort in different types of situations. Here’s a place they can come in and if a child has trouble waiting for their turn for the bouncy castle a volunteer is there that can recognize that and they don’t have to wait,” she said. “If were another event it could be a different situation with someone who doesn’t understand what autism is. It can be uncomfortable for the person with autism and their family. That’s what is so good about today is that people can come and everyone is accepted.”

She said the chapter has a strong board of directors that’s like a family and she can’t help but beam at the success.

“My heart is just full. I think today is our most successful day yet,” she said. “There’s not just people with the spectrum here today, the entire community is here and they’re so accepting. It feels wonderful.”

Hyslop said all the money stays local.

“The money we raise helps provide events. We just got a new space so we’re trying to put a new kitchen in to build capacity for our participants in the community and their daily living skills. We will also use funds to offer more programming and education for the individuals in our community.”

Located in the former Acadian Printing building on the corner of South Albion and Chamberlain Street, the new facility offers better parking and a bit more space than the previous location downtown. There’s also room for growth with the potential of a sensory room when the funding permits.

The centre has one part-time employee with the rest of the facility staffed by volunteers.

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