Aspen events to raise autism awareness |

Aspen events to raise autism awareness

Jeanne McGovernThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – What color is Aspen? On Sunday evening, the answer won’t be snowy white. “We’re painting the town blue,” said Jill Pidcock, an organizer of Light It Up Blue Aspen, which takes place Sunday at dusk. “It should really catch people’s attention while showing solidarity with other Light It Up Blue communities.”In Aspen, the entire Little Nell run on Ajax – as well as the Sardy House tree and more than 70 storefronts around town – will be lit up in blue. The color wash signifies Light It Up Blue Aspen, which is a part of an international movement signifying World Autism Awareness Day on April.”We’ve long wanted to do something to raise awareness for kids on the autism spectrum in our own valley,” said Allison Johnson, an event organizer and founder of the Roaring Fork Autism Network, noting that World Autism Awareness Day is one of only three official disease-specific days designated by the United Nations. “So when we saw the tie-in with Light It Up Blue, it made sense to bring the two things together.”We are taking something global and making it local.”According to Autism Speaks, the umbrella organization for the Light It Up Blue campaign, more than 1,800 locations in 180 cities and 35 countries will participate in the blue-lights project. While some notable landmarks are on the list to be lit – the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House, Niagara Falls and others – Aspen will hold its own distinction.”We are the first ski resort in the world to participate, to light up the mountain,” said event organizer Esther Pearlstone. “And what we’d like to see is Aspen becoming a model for other resorts, other small towns. “We’d like to be at the forefront of this movement.”Of course for Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, Light It Up Blue is about much more than a light show (which, by the way, will be environmentally friendly, with 100 percent LED lights being used). Here, Light It Up Blue translates into three days of events designed to raise awareness – and money – for autism.”We live in a small community, and resources are limited,” Johnson said, noting that local beneficiaries for the Light It Up Blue Aspen events include the Roaring Fork Autism Network and Extreme Sports Camp. “Our goal is to make sure families can find the support they need. Autism can be isolating.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. Plus, autism costs more than $35 billion per year – a figured that is expected to increase significantly over the next decade.Roaring Fork Autism Network, a locally founded organization that provides education, resources and support to families with kids on the autism spectrum, is well aware of these statistics.”Just about everyone is affected, in some way, by autism,” Johnson said, noting that families of children on the spectrum feel the greatest burden but that friends, teachers and others are also touched. “We are trying to make a difference, and we think Light It Up Blue Aspen is a good jumping-off point.”

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