It was another successful Imagine Walk in Warwick on Sunday, with proceeds benefiting The Autism Project of Rhode Island.
Despite some early morning showers, more than eight thousand people showed up at Goddard Memorial State Park to support the fundraising event, now in its sixteenth year.
The annual walk stepped off at 10 a.m. and was emceed by WPRI’s Danielle North. WPRI12 and Fox Providence are proud sponsors.
Sunday was Rose Molina’s 11th Imagine Walk, but the first she’s been to since suffering an unimaginable loss.
“This is my first year returning since the loss of my daughter, and we’re having our first team in memory of her,” said Molina.
Molina’s daughter Eliana was on the autism spectrum. She attended The Autism Project’s summer camp for many years.
“The Autism Project was the only place that she ever was able to go and not be told it wasn’t working out, so it has a special place in my heart,” Molina said.
Joanne Quinn is the executive director of The Autism Project. Her son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder two decades ago.
“The transition to the adult world was more horrifying than getting the diagnosis,” Quinn said.
Part of the money raised from Sunday’s walk will help The Autism Project pay for training and support for local employers who want to hire people with disabilities.
“They can’t get past the initial interview, and that’s our higher functioning individuals too. Across the spectrum it’s a big challenge and they have so much to offer,” Quinn said.
Natalie Nault’s cousin has autism spectrum disorder and works at an automotive shop.
“He loves it, he can take a car apart and put it back together without a manual, which to me is just amazing,” Nault said.
For her and many others at the walk, the focus on helping those with autism goes far beyond a single day.
“It’s not something we just do once a year at a walk, it’s something we do every single day,” Molina said.
The Imagine Walk and Family Fun Day is The Autism Project’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Sunday’s event raised more than two hundred thousand dollars.