Break out your blue shirt.
The International Falls Autism Support Group is hosting its annual National Autism Awareness Day Walk this Saturday, April 7—and is urging parents and children from both sides of the border to take part.
The walk begins at noon behind Ronning's in International Falls, with a carnival immediately afterwards at the Union Hall (509 Third St.)
“This is our third-annual walk, and this year it is going to be bigger than ever,” Fort Frances resident Lindsay Strickland enthused.
“As a parent involved with the group, I would encourage parents and their children to come out and join us for this fun and free event,” she added.
Strickland said the walk and carnival is a great opportunity for families to both participate in a community event for kids, but “also to learn more about the unique abilities and strengths of our children on the autism spectrum, and how we can be amazing friends to each other.”
“We encourage families to wear a blue shirt in support of autism and join us for a great afternoon,” she added.
Strickland said there will be prizes for kids while adults even will have a chance to enter their own draw.
“We have had amazing community support in terms of donations of tons of prizes for the kids to participate in carnival games, face-painting, balloon animals, live music, cotton candy, and more,” she noted.
"Hotdogs and nachos will also be available at a minimal cost if you come hungry.
“This event has received wonderful support from the community the past two years, and we are so grateful to the Union Hall for the donation of their facility as we were bursting the First Assembly of God Church's basement at last year's walk,” Strickland added.
The event also is the perfect opportunity for newcomers to meet with members of the International Falls Autism Support Group and learn more about them.
“The I Falls Autism Awareness Group is a parent-run, cross-border group for families and their children on the autism spectrum,” Strickland explained.
“We typically meet every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in International Falls,” she noted.
“Many of our families—including my own—are from Fort Frances, and we welcome new families from both sides of the border to join us,” Strickland urged, adding their home base is the basement of the First Assembly of God Church (across from the Dairy Queen).
“However, we often plan events in the community, like sledding, visiting local community partners, the park, etc., so we have a Facebook page to announce the meeting place for the upcoming week.”
As a parent of a child with autism, Strickland said the group “has been an amazing source of support, friendship, and so much fun.”
“My son, Matthew, looks forward to it every week and will always remind me when it is Tuesday,” she remarked.
“[And] the parents get as much out of the group as the kids.”
Strickland said the group is “a place where people understand you, with no judgement.”
“Week to week, you know that if you have exciting news to share about your child or have challenges you need to work through, the group is there to listen and help,” she noted.
“What started as finding a place where my child could meet some friends, and join some activities, has evolved into a place where lasting friendships have formed.”
Check out “I Falls Autism Support Group” page on Facebook to learn more about the group.
“Feel free to contact us for more information, or just come out and join us if you are interested,” Strickland urged.