Media & Press

4th Annual Fear the Turtle Autism Speaks U 5K

University of Maryland: Her Campus
Sarah Polus
  • When: Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 9:00am - 1:00pm
  • What: A 5K walk/run that raises money for autism research
  • When: April 14, 2012
  • Registration/Check-in: 9 a.m.
  • Race: 10 a.m. *Guaranteed a t-shirt if you register before April 1, 2012
  • Where: Comcast Center, parking lot 9, College Park, Md.
  • Registration fees: $20 per person
  • Why: Funding is needed to help researchers find a way to catch autism earlier, in order to offset its development.

The Autism Speaks organization has been in existence since 2005 when grandparents of a child with autism, Bob and Suzanne Wright, created it. The group has grown over the years and developed into the biggest autism research and advocacy organization in the United States, according to

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad term covering a variety of brain developmental disorders. These disorders are classified by characteristics such as learning disabilities, physical health related issues (such as sleep and gastrointestinal) and problems with motor skills. Autism develops with the brain, yet symptoms don’t tend to show up until around 2-3 years of age. Researchers are attempting to find ways to catch the autism earlier, since the chances of preventing the negative effects of autism decrease with age.

This year the 4th Annual Fear the Turtle Autism Speaks U 5K race will be held. The event is purposely held every year in March, to commemorate Autism Awareness Month, according to Event Coordinator Christina Markish. Monday, April 2 is designated as World Autism Awareness Day however.

Many Greek organizations participate in the event, which is hosted by Sigma Kappa, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Delta Sigma Phi and Alpha Phi. “It’s important [to participate] because autism affects 1 in 88 children and we are raising research funding to learn more about such a prevalent disease,” Alison O’Donnell, Alpha Phi’s director of community service, said.

Although only in it’s fourth year, the event has already been a success. Last year the Fear the Turtle Autism Speaks U 5K raised over $24,000. Around 450 students and community members on average come out each year to show their support. The 5K is a competitive, timed race with prizes for top competitors.

The event is community friendly as well, with entertainment such as music and children’s activities (face painting and beanbag toss) to encourage a wide variety of participants.

The event comes at a particularly important time, since on Thursday, March 29 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the prevalence rate of autism increased from 1 in 101 children to 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls). This rate is higher than those of diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome combined, according to Markish.

The autism speaks 5k is held at other universities across the country, and Markish is the coordinator for all the events at universities in the Washington, D.C., area. Maryland’s Fear the Turtle Autism Speaks 5K is the largest event that she works on, alongside the hosting organizations at the school.

“I really enjoy working with the student organizations who dedicate so much time and energy into making this event possible and a success,” Markish said. “They are a group who are truly dedicated to making a difference in the community and are passionate for the cause.”

Donations can be made and registration can be completed on this site.

To access the full story, click: here.

Date: 4/1/2012