Media & Press

Saint Mary’s Students to Host Autism Speaks U Walk

Saint Mary's College
Gwen O’Brien

April 13, 2011 (Notre Dame, Ind.)— The Saint Mary’s College chapter of Autism Speaks U will host its first “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” on campus on Sunday, April 17. The three-mile walk is open to the public and families affected by autism are encouraged to attend. Autism Speaks U is a national program designed for college students to raise funds and awareness for Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

The event will begin on Dalloway’s Green outside of the Clubhouse and the walk will take place on campus. The walk will happen rain or shine. Tickets are on sale for $10 in advance or for $15 the day of the event. Children under five years of age are free. Those interested may register online at or tickets may be purchased in person between 11 a.m-12 p.m. or 5-6 p.m. this week in the Student Center Atrium. The club will also accept donations to the cause.

Organizers of the walk hope that the event will generate curiosity and awareness about autism and Autism Speaks U, which is new to Saint Mary’s College. Katrina Mesina’11 is one of the event’s coordinators. “I have a few cousins with autism spectrum disorders and I also spent three years as a nanny for a family with a child who is on the spectrum. These people are very dear to me and I want to raise awareness about autism through this club.”

Mesina, a communication studies major, has been involved with Autism Speaks for a number of years. “I have been a team leader for a team in the Chicago walk for eight years and I planned this event to mirror the walk in Chicago,” she said. “We first and foremost want to raise money for autism research, however we also want people to simply have a great time. We want families to remember this day together, friends to have fun for a good cause, and the College to have another event to be proud of.”

The event will begin with registration and breakfast at 10 a.m. followed by the opening ceremony and entertainment by the Notre Dame/Saint Mary’s Irish Dance Team. The walk will begin at noon. The event will also include inflatables, a DJ, activity tables, and a resource fair. The resource fair will consist of representatives and information from local organizations that work with autism, like the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at LOGAN, Reins of Life, Inc., and Hannah and Friends, as well as information for Saint Mary’s students about the communication disorders major.

The club’s leaders hope the event will encourage more Saint Mary’s students to become involved with Autism Speaks U.

“We are a new club, so raising awareness that we exist and getting people to want to join our club and think about the cause is also a main concern,” Mesina said. “Many of the girls in the club are going to be involved with this cause for years to come and are pursuing careers that deal with autism so we all have a reason to be involved. We hope that this is an event that will be a staple in the spring semester for years to come.”

Read about two Saint Mary’s students who are majoring or minoring in communicative disorders and/or psychology and are interested in careers concerning autism. Meet Brynn Thomas '11 and Ally Drake '11.

About Saint Mary’s College: Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., is a four-year, Catholic, women’s institution offering five bachelor’s degrees and more than 30 major areas of study. Saint Mary’s College has six nationally accredited academic programs: social work, art, music, teacher education, chemistry and nursing. Saint Mary’s College ranks among the top 100 “Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” in the U.S. News & World Report 2011 College Guide. Founded in 1844, Saint Mary’s is a pioneer in the education of women, and is sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

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Date: 2/13/2011