CCISD holds Walk for Autism
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove Independent School District held its annual Walk for Autism after a nearly five-year hiatus on Thursday evening at Hanke Stadium at S.C. Lee Junior High.
The district used to hold an Autism Walk annually but had not held one in about five years due to staff changes and then the pandemic, according to CCISD Communications Director Wendy Sledd.
Despite the cooler temperatures and the chance for rain, severaldozen people showed up to show their support for raising awareness and promoting acceptance of autism.
“The response has been tremendous, and I think that right there says it all,” Sledd said about the turnout.
The walk kicked off with a lap around the track, led by JROTC members carrying the flags, with Five Hills Scholarship Pageant royalty escorting the different costumed characters including Poppy from Trolls, Spiderman, Captain America, Baby Shark and more.
Spread out across the field, attendees could visit 14 different booths set up with sensory activities that were perfect for autistic students but also fun for all ages, such as face painting, Yard-Zee, giant bubble wands, Giant Jenga and more.
There were also different games like pool noodle limbo, scooter limbo and dance and freeze. The event ended with a candlelight ceremony.
Various student groups like the cheerleading team, the step team and HOSA volunteered at the event as well.
“That’s great because those are kids that tthey’ll see at school tomorrow, and so now they know a little bit more about them, and they’re a little bit more aware, and they can celebrate the differences,” Sledd said. “That’s what this is all about. None of us are alike. We’re all different. You can look to the person to your left and to your right, and we’re all different. Our differences are our strength.”
April is Autism Acceptance Month, and this year’s theme for the month is “Celebrate the Differences.”
CCISD received a donation this year from the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant program to purchase sensory classroom equipment for students with autism. Sledd said that the district hopes to put a sensory classroom on every single school, which will also end up benefitting students who are not autistic but just need time to calm down before returning to class.
Teresa Colvin, who is the Special Education Coordinator for CCISD and also has a son with autism, was at the event. She was happy to see the turnout and to see the impact the event made on people.
“Professionally speaking, this [event] is a culmination of what we want to see as educators: celebrating the differences of other people, bringing everyone together, integrating our community,” Colvin said. “As a parent, on the personal side, this lets me know that CCISD sees my child, sees him, and to put on an event like this is really special.”
Zaymery Montiel attended the walk with her two sons, Mario, 12, and Max, 7. She was glad the district hosted the walk.
“It means a lot because it’s about spreading autism awareness and not only that but also acceptance because that’s what we’re lacking too,” Montiel said. “A lot of people still don’t knowwhat autism is.”
Montiel said that she has two boys with autism, which has meant that her family has had to change and adapt in their lives.
“We’ve learned a lot from them,” Montiel said. “We have learned what autism is through them, and I wouldn’t change them for anything.”
Montiel said that she was glad to see the large turnout.
“Seeing all of these people here, actually, it gives me hope that acceptance and awareness is growing and that we’re getting the word out there that this is what autism is, and it’s okay to be autistic,” Montiel said. “That’s what we strive for.”