Last month the Shenandoah Valley Autism Partnership (SVAP) hosted its 15th annual 5k fundraiser. It’s the first time in 2 years that they’ve been able to convene in person. “We had wonderful turnout today, it's great to see everyone come back out in person and have a really good time all together” said Lynda Chandler who’s on the board of the SVAP and helped organize the event. She added “This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and all of the proceeds go directly to scholarships that support individuals with autism living right here in our community.” Having a child diagnosed with autism presents many challenges for that family. Margaret “Muff” Perry, who has a teenage daughter with autism, explains “When kids are diagnosed … their team [of doctors] will recommend services such as behavior therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and a lot of times the insurance doesn't cover those costs.” This can be a huge obstacle for families trying to provide care for their children. One of the SVAP’s goals is to help get resources for families who need them by funding scholarships and establishing a network of support. Events like the 5k show that community support for this goal is strong. Moving to a new area is a big consideration for families with autistic children. Will they be able to access the resources they need? And will they have a community of people who understand what they’re going through? According to Leila Longcor, a SVAP board member and also a realtor with Kline May, the answer is a resounding yes. “Our whole group is a bunch of parents with children on the spectrum and we also have a tremendous amount of resources, … so anytime somebody moves to the area they can call us and there'll be somebody that can help them.” Perry agrees, “We actually moved to Harrisonburg for better support.” She continued, “we actually participated a lot in getting scholarships each year … and we weren't able to do that if we didn't have that support.” The Shenandoah Valley is a great place to live, and events like this 5k are a great example of why. Even though raising a child with autism can be a difficult and isolating experience, seeing all the people come out in support is very reassuring. As Chandler sees it, “this is a great race for us because the community comes together to support us, and we don’t feel like we’re on an island … Community support has been key to my son’s success here in Harrisonburg.” Based on the number of people who participated in the race, the amount of support for these families is very strong, and Kline May is proud to be part of that network. If you would like to know more about the work of the Shenandoah Valley Autism Partnership check them out on facebook, or visit their website:

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