Arts and Entertainment

Pieces come together for Saturday's autism fun run

Lonnie Schopen, owner of La Lonnie’s Notions gift shop in Oak Harbor, was inspired to create an event around autism by her autistic 21-year-old son Jayson.   - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Lonnie Schopen, owner of La Lonnie’s Notions gift shop in Oak Harbor, was inspired to create an event around autism by her autistic 21-year-old son Jayson.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

For those who have autism, it’s like their minds are a puzzle and a piece is missing.

That’s how Lonnie Schopen, mother of an autistic son, describes the inner world of those who have the developmental disorder.

“They just keep working until all the pieces are put back together,” Schopen said.

For this reason, Schopen has organized a 5K fun run with a puzzle theme — to illustrate how difficult simple tasks are for those with autism.

The “Get Your Feet Wet for Autism Awareness” event will also provide opportunities for autistic attendees to paint their feet and play in wading pools, providing valuable stimuli and activities that contribute to putting the puzzle pieces together.

“It’s important for people to understand how difficult it is for an autistic child to make changes,” Schopen said.

The event is 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21, at Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor. It was started by Schopen, owner of La Lonnie’s Notions on Pioneer Way, as a way to assist the local autistic and disabled community.

The goal of the event is to raise money to include new autism and special-needs-friendly playground equipment at local parks.

Schopen said the event has already raised roughly $2,000, and more than 50 runners are signed up to participate.

The 37 vendors who will be participating range from local artisans to organizations providing resources and information for people with disabilities. Frozen yogurt from Toppins will be available along with hotdogs and snow cones, Schopen said.

Already planning for next year, Schopen would like the event to continue to be a gathering place for resources, fundraising and assistance for families with special needs children.

Schopen’s inspiration is her autistic son Jayson, who is now 21.

In addition to helping families with disabled children of all ages, Shopen she’s also interested in starting an adult daycare for those with developmental disabilities.

This year, activities will include a number of races where parents will be required to surmount obstacles that their autistic children will not. In this way, Schopen said, people can get a better sense of what its like to live with a disability.

“It’s right at the end of summer,” she said.

“We are saying goodbye to summer and allowing people to experience what it’s like for autistic folks.”

For more information about “Get Your Feet Wet for Autism Awareness,” call 360-969-1751.

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