Every Monday from 3 to 4 p.m., you can find a group of people of all ages running and walking at French Broad River Park in Asheville. Each time a participant completes the half-mile loop, a check is placed next to his or her name on a giant chart. They are all members of the WNC Run/Walk Club, made up of both clients and staff of the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Asheville office.
The weekly club is just one part of the staff’s emphasis on improving health for the people they serve, said WNC Regional Director Michael LePage. Individuals with autism often face health challenges; studies have shown that they are more likely to have physical ailments such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Michael said the club is beneficial because the participants with autism enjoy it and are excited to attend. The club is structured, with a set time frame and organization, all features that make it comfortable for individuals with autism. “One of the really cool things that I’ve seen happen as the weeks have gone by is people running more and more,” he said. “There’s a contagion in seeing other people run.”
Attendance each week ranges anywhere from 10 to 20 people. The club welcomes people of all skill levels, unlike many groups that tend to focus on more experienced runners.
Amy Sorrells has lost 12 pounds since the club started in July. “I like the cool weather, and it is good for you,” she said. Amy and many of the club participants attended the WNC Run/Walk for Autism in September, running or walking in it for the first time.
‘Connecting with our community’
The weekly club is also a social opportunity, giving individuals with autism a chance to interact with a lot of other people. “I think when you’re in school, you have a naturally built-in social system but as you graduate and are in an adult world, those social events become less structured and less frequent,” Michael said.
“It’s also a really great opportunity for us as professional staff to make sure we’re connecting with our community,” he said. “It’s a great way that we can reach out to the community. We’ve had parents come and walk and talk.”
The ASNC staff sets up an information table as well and is happy to chat with anyone who attends with questions. They will be meeting year-round, so if you’re in the area, come out and join them!
WNC Run/Walk Club
Mondays, 3-4 p.m.
French Broad River Park
508 Riverview Drive, Asheville
Contact Michael LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.Tags: ASNC, autism, autism health, autism nc, autism society north carolina, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Developmental disability, Run/Walk for Autism