WOODBINE (NJ) – More than 300 area residents turned out for the Soar Baptist Church’s fourth annual Autism Awareness Walk Saturday, April 29 to raise money for Cape May County’s Ocean Academy and the Woodbine Elementary School.
By combining efforts of church members, state police, motorcyclists and borough and county residents, the church raised more than $10,000 for the schools, said Pastor Thomas Dawson.
“Over the last four years, we’ve raised about $36,000 for the schools,” he said.
Robert Matthews, a pastor who helps organize the event, said the Soar church is committed to partnering with the community to raise money and awareness for the special needs programs at the school.
“Because autism has affected our community and many of our Soar members, we’re going to continue to fight for awareness until the world sees all children on the autism spectrum as having a different ability rather than a disability,” he said.
“That’s why we named this year’s theme ‘Embracing the Amazing.’”
Matthews gave credit to his team leaders – Kim Matthews, Crystal Brown – for help to organize and coordinate the event.
Annamarie Haas, principal of Ocean Academy, was one of several folks to address the walkers before they set out on their trek along Woodbine’s bike path.
“This really helps us out,” Haas told the gathered crowd. “These children are beautiful. They are God’s angels. All of us coming together helps these children.”
Pastor Dawson said the annual walk is part of his church’s vision.
“We want to help out the community and people in need,” he said. “Some of our own congregation is affected by autism. We want to help those families, as well as the schools.”
Matthews said the annual walk is important to the community. “It’s one thing to support a cause with money,” Matthews said. “But it’s something else entirely to be out here and walk. It shows that the support comes from the community.”
Organizers served hotdogs and fruit after the walk was finished.