Desiree Bracey, an educational assistant at Peter Skene Ogden School, and Grade 8 student Quinten Parks pin one of the puzzle pieces on the board outside of Exeter Sporting Goods on Birch Avenue. “I wanted to walk and help,” said Parks, who volunteered to participate over his lunch hour. Karissa Gall photo.

Puzzle pieces raise awareness about autism in 100 Mile House

Community walk for autism awareness month handed puzzle pieces out to businesses on April 25

After meeting in the 100 Mile Community Hall where there were games, bicycles and bubbles, participants in the interactive community walk for autism awareness month took to Birch Avenue on the afternoon of April 25, puzzle pieces in hand.

The blue puzzle pieces had facts about autism and inspirational quotes, and the participants paraded them down the street, stopping in at places of business along the way.

According to walk organizer Krysta Stewart, who also runs Blue Sky’s Autism Services out of her Lone Butte ranch, every business they visited agreed to display a puzzle piece somewhere inside or outside of their store.

Around 50 Peter Skene Ogden student volunteers, staff of Cedar Crest Society for Community Living, the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre and the Ministry of Children & Family Development, as well as other community members participated.

“I’m so thankful for all the people who showed up today to support us,” Stewart said. “It was an amazing turnout.”

Stewart said she shaped the awareness-raising handouts like puzzle pieces to represent the uniqueness of children who have autism.

“Every single child you meet with autism is unique in their own way,” she said. “They’re like a different piece of the puzzle and we all fit together to make a whole.”

RELATED: Annual autism gathering looking for community support

After the puzzle pieces were handed out, the group stopped at the community garden, where Kjerstin Dunk, infant development consultant for the South Cariboo, had set up a temporary storywalk.

Dunk’s storywalk took apart pages from the children’s book Don’t Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability by Pat Thomas. Pages from the book were printed out, laminated and attached to storyboards for walk participants to read, and there were also suggested activities on each board.

The storywalk was only up during the day on Thursday, but Dunk said the story will be included in the storywalks that take place every Wednesday throughout the summer at Parkside Art Gallery.

RELATED: Over 100 at Story Walk opening

“It was great. It was a wonderful turnout,” said Dunk. “Lots of different ages and support from the community to come together and help families feel that if they have children with disabilities, the community is here to support them.”

Stewart told the Free Press that she hopes to organize a similar event next year around the end of April.

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Krysta Stewart (front left), who also runs Blue Sky Autism out of her Lone Butte ranch, organized the walk. Karissa Gall photo.

Grade 12 Peter Skene Ogden student Dominic Pacaud reads one of the boards along the storywalk set up in the community garden after the interactive community walk for autism awareness month on April 25. Karissa Gall photo.

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