Chicago Walk Now for Autism Speaks Will Raise Awareness and Funds for Autism Advocacy and Research at Soldier Field

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire -05/04/12)- Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that the 9th annual Chicago Walk Now for Autism Speaks fundraising and awareness event will take place on Saturday, May 12th at Soldier Field. All event proceeds will support Autism Speaks' work, both locally and nationally, to increase awareness about the growing autism health crisis, fund innovative autism research and family services, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families in Chicago and beyond. Autism spectrum disorder is now diagnosed in 1 in every 88 children, including 1 in 54 boys, making it the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.

The Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are the signature fundraising events for Autism Speaks, raising nearly $26 million nationwide in 2011 alone to support autism research, awareness and advocacy. Last year's Chicago Walk Now for Autism Speaks attracted more than 20,000 walkers, 500 volunteers and raised over $1.6 million.

Funds raised through the Chicago Walk allow Autism Speaks to make a significant impact in the Chicagoland area. Autism Speaks science grants have supported research at the University of Chicago, UIC and Northwestern. Local agencies have received Autism Speaks' community grants to expand their work and build capacity.

In addition, Autism Speaks conducts outreach through the Community Ambassador program, training over 150 volunteers to introduce the Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit for newly diagnosed families to doctors, teachers and other professionals. The chapter has also worked with Chicago Public Schools, introducing and training teachers and school personnel on the use of the Autism Speaks School Community Tool Kit.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks is a unique fundraising event that offers a safe and fun day for families impacted by autism. The day includes a three-mile Walk and Resource Fair with educational sources, therapists, schools, recreational organizations, and creative child-friendly activities -- a true "one-stop-shop" for families affected by autism. Our family-friendly, Chicago event features our sponsor expo and one of a kind after party, complete with music, petting zoo and bounce houses. Special main stage guests include Andrew Salgado, Northwestern Women's Basketball team and two local performance groups, and is emceed by NBC5's morning news anchor, Andy Avalos.

"Thanks to tremendous community support and the work of our wonderful volunteers, our Walk Now for Autism Speaks event has grown each year, and we expect to expand the ranks of both walkers and donors in 2012," said Tricia Brouwers, Walk Co-Chair. "In addition to raising funds and awareness, the Walk is a chance for families to come together and enjoy a day of laughter, hope and community. Working together, we are making great strides toward improving the lives of people with autism and their families."

For the sixth straight year, Toys"R"Us® and Babies"R"Us® will proudly serve as the North American sponsors of Walk Now for Autism Speaks. Additional sponsors include, McDermott Will & Emery, Fifth Third Bank, Chicago Trading Company, CME Group, Chopper Trading, Motorola Mobility Foundation and CBOE.

For more information about the 2012 Chicago Walk Now for Autism Speaks, please visit www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/chicago or contact Dana Morris at 224.567.8573 or dana.morris@autismspeaks.org

ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS: Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism advocacy organization, dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. www.autismspeaks.org

ABOUT AUTISM: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autism now affects about 1 in every 88 American children, including 1 in 54 boys. Autism is a complex condition that affects a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges.

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Contact:
Dana Morris
224.567.8573
dana.morris@autismspeaks.org

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