Heart of Texas Autism Network hosts 5K in Waco

Waco hosts Run for Autism this Saturday at Brazos Park East. Photo illustration by Brittany Tankersley

By Kayla Bradshaw | Guest Contributor

The Heart of Texas Autism Network’s (HOTAN) Run for Autism is coming to Waco just in time for Autism Awareness Day on Saturday.

The Run for Autism will be starting with a 5K at 8 a.m. and a family walk at 10 a.m. this Saturday at Brazos Park East. Network president Stacy Rodriguez said there will be vendors with different activities for the families, a DJ and other fun festivities that will go until around noon.

“It’s an event where we can meet other family members,” Marisela Puerto, treasurer of HOTAN, said. “To me, it’s a community coming together, and not just for awareness, but for a way for growth and in getting to know our family.”

Rodriguez said HOTAN and its Run for Autism is about love, support and connection for these families. Even volunteers that help coordinate the event get into the spirit of what the run is about.

“To me, it’s a way to encourage and support those who don’t always get encouragement and support in society in general,” Greenville senior and volunteer Ashleigh Norman said. “It’s more like a way to praise and encourage them and build a relationship rather than just hearing about a run and being like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s cool. They’re raising money.’ I think to them, it helps a lot just making friends. It’s a way for them to know that they are supported and loved by people other than those they see everyday.”

Kristy Delony, the race director, said people who like running and want to donate to a cause are the typical people who run the 5K. She said that is where they raise a lot of money. Delony said the funding from the Run for Autism goes straight to the families and that they look at different families’ needs to figure out how they can support them.

“Everything the events raise goes right back into the community,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said ways they can help support families is by helping pay for respite, ABA therapy copays, technological devices, the cost of summer camps, cooking programs for adults on the spectrum and more.

“HOTAN is more of a resource hub so we can connect families to services,” Rodriguez said. “We let them know we have this binder called OMG, which is a how-to, step-by-step guide once their child gets that diagnosis.”

Delony said they have connections to insurance, protective services, public schools, attorneys and other services to help in multiple departments. Puerto said HOTAN tries to host events to bring families together and have them connect with others in similar situations. She said some of the other events they host are a sensory movie event, a Halloween event, a Christmas party and the Golf Scramble on April 30.