Friday, October 31, 2014

Students run for autism

The 5K raised more than $8,000 in honor of Professor Clark Zealand’s son, Coleman

The Coleman’s Run 5K, organized by Liberty University professor Clark Zealand, was held Saturday, April 6, in order to raise awareness about autism, as well as to fundraise for Liberty’s Autism Speaks U chapter.

Coleman’s Run is named after Zealand’s 11-year-old son, who has autism.

Run — Zealand, with help from son Coleman, begins the race. Photo provided

“I direct a lot of races in the area, and so, having a race director background and having a son with autism, it was kind of a natural fit for me to do a charity type of event where we could raise both awareness for autism and hopefully, along with that, do some fundraising as well,” Zealand said.

According to Zealand, there is an increasing importance for autism awareness and research.

“The rate of autism is growing in alarming ways. It was just a few years ago (that) we were talking about one in 150 children, and then it was one in 110 children, and now the most current rates put up by the CDC are one in 88,” Zealand said. “The challenge of autism is growing exponentially, and it’s impacting so many people’s lives. We want to get the message out there that there is hope, that there are ways to help these individuals, help people understand more about what autism really is.”

Besides the race and the fundraising, Zealand and the Liberty Autism awareness chapter also brought in local autism organizations to help people connect with support groups and become more informed about autism.

“People who come to the event can not only learn more about autism, they can actually connect with some groups right here in the community who can help families understand how to help their autistic children,” Zealand said.

This is the second year that Zealand has organized this race, and it is something he hopes to be able to continue. Last year, Coleman’s Run had just under 200 participants, and Zealand is hopeful that the race will exceed that number the second time around.

“We’re ecstatic that we have raised over $8,000 at this point, and we are going to raise more by the time (the event) is complete,” Zealand said.

According to Liberty’s Autism Speaks U chapter website, the goal for the event is to raise $13,000.

The race was held at The Aid Station in Forest, a running equipment store that Zealand owns.

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