Mar 9, 2010

Zealand runs for autism

by Casey Overcash

The Coleman 5K benefit run will take place April 3 at Liberty University’s Mathis Hopkins Outdoor Track. The run aims to increase awareness of autism in Central Virginia and raise money to help autism agencies in research and treatment procedures.

Coleman’s 5K Run is named in honor of Coleman Zealand, son of Clark and Andrea Zealand who helped create and plan the event. He and his wife have a personal desire to give hope to parents of children with autism, according to Clark.

Liberty University Sports Management Professor and head of Eco-X Sports Clark has been actively directing races similar to the Coleman 5K Run in years past. Special Education Coordinator at Liberty University Dr. Deana Keith helped organize a walkathon last year and approached Zealand to ask if he could help grow the event into more of a race.

“I approached Zealand about the Autism walk because of his experience with managing and personal connection with autism,” Keith said. “We have become good friends because our offices are on the same hall. We both have loved ones with autism. I have a 6-year-old nephew named Chase who also has autism.
Last year the walkathon raised more than $4,000, according to Keith. He runs a program called the Counsel for Exceptional Children, whose mission is to help people understand special needs.

“I remember first working with people with autism at CVCC, and it really gives you a new perspective on life. It makes you thankful and gives you more compassion towards those with special needs. It’s very challenging, but rewarding. I love special education,” senior special education major Krista Brancaleone said.

“Sometimes if you don’t understand something, you fear it. We want to work for awareness and the process of acceptance,” Keith said.

The Run for a Reason organization is heavily involved with Zealand’s managing company, Eco-Xsports. Run for a Reason was the umbrella title for the walkathon itself and each event had a different name associated with their cause to highlight all special needs, according to Zealand.

Generation Rescue Organization also promotes the Coleman 5K benefit run. It is a parent-founded and parent-led organization whose fundraisers have spread to 38 countries with the desire to help children with autism using biomedical intervention. The Run for a Reason Web site contains a public service announcement, in which Jenny McCarthy promotes the Coleman 5K Run.

“Autism affects every one out of 110 children,” McCarthy said.
ABC 13 News WSET reported on the Coleman 5K run Feb. 18. WSET broadcasted a segment presenting the Zealand family and the love they have for their autistic son.

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