The Autism July 4th 5K is in its 19th year in Potomac. It’s a community tradition and celebration, while raising millions of dollars. This year, Thursday, July 4, 8 a.m. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m., July 4 at Potomac Library. Register online at AutismSpeaks5K.org until July 2.
Besides cookouts, fireworks and maybe a splash in the pool, Potomac residents have an early morning July 4 tradition.
The Autism Speaks 5K Run and I Mile Walk.
Now in its 19th year, the run starts at 8 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, at the Potomac Library on Glenolden Drive and winds through the surrounding neighborhood.
The Run was started by Potomac resident Susan Pereles in 2000 shortly after her nephew in Boston was diagnosed with autism.
“I wanted to do something as I wasn’t able to help on a day to day basis,” she said.
She decided on fundraising for research with the idea loosely based on the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
“That was all about people coming out to support others with breast cancer and that was my vision for the Autism Run,” she said. “People supporting people.”
It’s become such a community event, Pereles said. Anybody left in town is invited.
Those who don’t want to do the 5K can choose a one mile walk and there is a third option.
“In 2010 I started a virtual component,” Pereles said. “People who will be out of town can register and we will send them a tee shirt. They can take a picture wherever they are.”
That option has grown in popularity, according to Pereles, with between 100 and 250 participants across the world.
So far this year, a group in Michigan has registered to be virtual runners, as has a group in Washington state, and Pereles has three family members who will be running in Beirut, she said.
Over the 19 years of the run, the Potomac Autism Speaks 5K has raised close to $4 million.
“Every year it grows, this year we will surpass $400,000,” Pereles said.
Money raised goes to the Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization “dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions,” according to the Autism Speaks website.
The web site also notes that “autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. We now know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, and each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges. Most forms are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences, and many are accompanied by medical issues such as intestinal issues, seizures and sleep disturbances. An estimated 1 in 59 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum,” according to the Autism Speaks website.
Entry fees for adults are $40 until July 2 and $45 on race day. Children, 14 and under, are $20. Visit AutismSpeaks5K.org to register by July 2 and for more details.
On Race day, registration/packet pickup begins at 6:30 a.m. in the Potomac Library parking lot, 10101 Glenolden Drive. The race will start at 8 a.m.
Pre-race packet pickup and registration will also take place from 4-7 p.m. July 3 at Potomac Presbyterian Church,10301 River Road.
There will be a Finish Line Celebration after the race featuring Potomac Pizza and other refreshments, music and awards.