On Saturday, August 20, 2011 nearly 1000 people turned out at Jetties Beach for the fifth annual Nantucket Walk Now for Autism Speaks. The walkers raised over $330,000 in support of Autism Speaks’ initiatives.
John Shea, creative director of the Theatre Work Shop of Nantucket and Walk day emcee, welcomed walkers to the fifth annual event. The Walk day festivities kicked off with a wonderful musical performance from the Nantucket Dreamland Foundation Campers and Olivia Esposito who sang songs, and remarks were given by Paul Borneman, a parent and first time Walk participant, and Melissa Murphy, Representative of Nantucket School Committee. Massachusetts State Representative Tim Madden (D-Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket District) addressed the crowd and introduced Rep. William Keating (US Rep 10th Congressional District, Mass.). The Theatre Workshop of Nantucket performed one song from The Fantasticks and encouraged the crowd to attend a free performance for those with disabilities on August 24.
Autism Speaks Co-founders Suzanne and Bob Wright took to the stage, where they spoke about the importance of continued awareness and the crucial Combating Autism Reauthorization Act which will sunset on September 30, 2011 without sufficient support. Over the past week leading up to the Walk, the Wrights have spoken to Plum TV and the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror (Inky) about their organization and their particular role as grandparents of a child with autism. Read the Inky story on grandparents. Read another story on autism research here.
Following the Co-founders’ remarks, Bill Tornovish, NBC’s David Gregory and his wife Beth Wilkinson, along with the Walk Committee joined the Wrights for the Walk ribbon cutting. Other special guests attending included three Autism Speaks board members: Phil Geier, James Broder and Kevin Murray. U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Louis B. Sussman and Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal.
The Wrights started the Nantucket Walk Now for Autism Speaks back in 2007 to raise awareness in a place they call home for part of the year. Since its inception, the Walk has raised over $1.5 million. This year the whole town stepped up to shine a spotlight on autism when over 80 restaurants and businesses helped Light it Up Blue over the past week. See pictures from the Light It Up Blue Nantucket initiative on Facebook. In addition. Don Allen Ford played host to the Autism Speaks NASCAR car #11 from Joe Gibbs Racing. Bill Tornovish welcomed the hundreds of guests at Friday evening’s fundraiser saying that this was the first annual event in support of Autism Speaks. Guests not only got to see the great puzzle piece covered car, but also checked out nearly 50 antique and amazing cars. Even the Nantucket Choppers showed up! Read a story in the Inky.
The Walk organizers would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the Chairs Suzanne and Bob Wright, and the Co-Chairs: Sydney Fee Barsanti, Stephen and Jill Karp, Maureen Orth and Susan and Bill Vareschi for their dedication to the success of the Nantucket Walk. Special thanks to Diamond Sponsors Suzanne and Bob Wright, The Cranberry Cup Nantucket, Don Allen Auto Service, Inc., Stephen and Jill Karp, Susan and Bill Vareschi and Platinum Sponsors Maureen Orth, Bob and Laura Reynolds, Wendy and Eric Schmidt, Mimi and Barry Sternlicht, and The Inquirer and Mirror.
Fundraising totals are “to-date” – teams are still raising money and the site is still accepting donations at www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/nantucket. For information, please call (646) 843-6675 or email email@example.com.