For the past 20 years, members of Richmond’s autism community have joined together for the Autism Society of Central Virginia’s 5K & Family Fun Day. Returning for its 21st year on May 20, the annual event does much more than raise funds for the nonprofit’s work; it creates a space for families and autistic individuals to support each other and gather resources.
“The 5K is our number one favorite event because it was the first time we felt free to share our story and realize how many people support and love our family,” says ASCV 5K & Family Fun Day Co-Chair Roxana Ospina. “After the first race, we were hooked. It was very emotional for me to cross the finish line while carrying Gabriel.”
The community event will take place at Crump Park from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. An estimated 1,000 attendees will participate in a 5K run/walk, explore a robust Resource Fair, enjoy fun entertainment, and experience the Family Fun Day! In addition this year, the ASCV is hosting a new Virtual 5K option for those who cannot attend in person.
“The day is more than a race; it’s a festival and place for members of our local community to find connection and support,” says Executive Director Ann Flippin. “It’s an event for the autism community and really made possible by the autism community.”
The event raises critical funds for the ASCV’s mission to support, empower, and build connections to improve the lives of all in our local autism community. Hundreds of registrants are already signed up and raising funds to support the growing needs of the ASCV.
In 2022, the nonprofit served 7,138 community members through 368 programs. In addition, the ASCV awarded $26,500+ in scholarships to families facing financial challenges while caring for a loved one with autism.
“In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, we tripled the amount of programming we offer,” Flippin says. “And our growth and the demand for our programs continues to increase exponentially.”
The growing prevalence of autism diagnoses have made the need for the organization’s services greater than ever. Today, one in 44 people receives an autism diagnosis. Parents like ASCV 5K & Family Fun Day Co-Chair Kefu Dorion find hope and critical support from the ASCV staff, fellow members, and its partners.
“The ASCV is an organization that truly changed our lives,” Dorion says. “After my son’s diagnosis, our family was lost, sad, and lonely. We didn’t know where to start. The ASCV helped us find people that are going through the same thing and we found our support group!”
Ospina echoed Kefu’s experience with the ASCV: “Not only were we able to obtain access to resources and activities for our child, but we also felt embraced by the community of parents that understood how we felt,” Ospina says. “When we first got the diagnosis, it was devastating and we were lost and unsure but the ASCV helped us navigate through so many difficult times while providing support. The ASCV empowered us as parents and a family to advocate for Gabriel.”
Both event co-chairs are raising funds as a part of their ASCV 5K & Family Fun Day fundraising teams. Dozens of teams have joined them already and set fundraising goals to reach by May 20. You can see and support all fundraising teams here.
The ASCV 5K & Family Fun Day will also welcome a variety of providers who offer services to autistic individuals of all ages during the Resource Fair. Other fun is in store for all, including visits from Nutzy, costumed Princesses, and even your favorite Star Wars characters. A bouncy slide, face painting, hula hoops, and more will await kids and families in the Family Fun area. A sensory-friendly area will also be available thanks to River City ABA.
“The event will be an invaluable opportunity for individuals and caregivers whose loved ones have received recent diagnoses, our members who know us well, and those who support their friends impacted by autism,” Flippin says.
Register for the event: ascv5k.org
Thank You to the ASCV Challenge, 5K & Family Fun Day Sponsors: