1,312 Run, Walk and Roll to Cure Autism

1,312 Run, Walk and Roll to Cure Autism

Cure Autism Now 5K

Holton-Arms student Allix Wilde has a new Fourth of July tradition, and she doesn’t have to leave her neighborhood to take part in it.

For the second straight year, Wilde volunteered at the starting and finish lines of the Cure Autism Now (CAN) 5 Kilometer Run and 1-Mile Fun Walk.

“I had a lot of fun last year,” said Wilde, who was at Potomac Library early in the morning on the Fourth of July along with the 1,312 participants, the highest turnout in the three years the 5K has been run. An estimated $107,000 was raised for CAN by the event, and 10 percent of the registration fees went to Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC), a Rockville-based nonprofit.

“I think it was the best I could have hoped for,” said race founder Susan Pereles of Potomac. “I was very anxious in January about a Friday on a holiday weekend.

“We have three years where the numbers keep coming up,” she continued. “It becomes a tradition at this point.”

Pereles began organizing the the race less than three years ago, after her nephew Shant Ayanian, now 5, was diagnosed with autism. Dozens of Pereles’ relatives and friends ran as part of the “Shant’s Striders” team, with pictures of Shant on their shirts.

OTHER RUNNERS ran as team members, with pictures of children they knew who have autism. Richard Braam of Bel Air, Md. has a 5-year-old daughter with autism, and Bowie special educator Nicole Lehman was running to support one of her students.

Corey Smith of Washington, D.C. was first to cross the finish line after 15 minutes and 27 seconds. The first female finisher was Alisa Harvey of Massass, Va., who ran the course in 17:42. Among Potomac residents, the first male to finish was Matthew Hard, a rising sophomore at Georgetown University, whose 17:20 finish was eighth among men in the race. The second-place overall runner among women was Emily Enstice of Potomac, who finished in 18:01.

Daniel Eichsburg, who just finished 8th grade at Hoover Middle School, was interested in getting some competitive running experience under his belt.

“I’m training for track next year at Churchill, and it’s a good cause, too,” said Eichsburg.

Debris remained on the course from a storm that struck Potomac earlier in the week, and runners were also advised to look out for a tree-trimmer truck that was on the course.

CAN FOUNDER Jon Shestack came from Los Angeles to address the runners and walkers, both those who were inspired to cure autism as well as “the athletes who just want to punish themselves.”

Shestack likened the experience of raising a child with autism to having a thief come into the house, stealing the child’s mind and soul and leaving the body behind. Shestack’s son Dave, 12, has autism and Shestack said it feels like Dave is in prison, “I have to get in prison with him, and it’s not good for any of us there.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8) spoke before the race. Maryland Sen. Rob Garagiola (D-15) spoke before the race started, wearing running attire, and finished the course in 29 minutes, 41 seconds.

Del. Jean Cryor (R-15) wore a more traditional Fourth of July getup, with a straw hat and pinstriped suit. “I’ll see you at the finish line,” she told the runners.


Matthew Hard finished the Cure Autism Now 5K in 17 minutes, 20 seconds, No. 8 overall, first in his age group and first among runners from Potomac.

A Churchill ‘02 graduate, Hard is a rising sophomore at Georgetown University. He walked onto the Georgetown track team last summer and made the cut before developing mononucleosis. Hard missed the entire track season, and the CAN 5K was the first race he had run in since September.

“The race didn’t feel that great, but it feels good to be back in a race,” Hard said after receiving his medal.


The following runners finished first in their age groups in this year’s Cure Autism Now 5-Kilometer Run. Runners’ names are followed by age, hometown and time.

* Yolanda Perez, 61, Silver Spring, 27:01

* Jeanne Grillo, 41, Potomac, 20:16

* Emily Enstice, 24, Potomac, 18:01

* Alisa Harvey, 37, Manassas, Va., 17:42 (No. 1 overall for women)

* Jack McMahon, 72, Rockville, 24:56

* Alexander Zier, 12, Potomac, 23:07

* Matthew Hard, 19, Potomac, 17:20

* Corey Smith, 23, Washington, D.C., 15:27 (No. 1 overall)