BELLAIRE - If pre-race registrations are a good indicator of interest, then the buzz surrounding the Awesome Autism 5K coming up in Bellaire is an encouraging sign.
"Actually, we're running ahead of last year at this time,'' Race Director Dennis Delbert said. "We have more than 115 (entrants) right now and last year, we had only 107 pre-registered at all and 75 by this point."
Slated for Saturday, Sept. 3, the Awesome Autism 5K is also part of the Health Plan Grand Prix series locally.
Delbert believes that, along with the success of the first two renditions of the race have helped fuel interest.
"I think that it has helped a lot of our local races,'' Delbert said of the Grand Prix. "It helps with those who want to score points and be competitive."
Also factoring high on the reasons for signing up is the Awesome Autism 5K naturally benefits a charitable organization. In this case, that would be Parents for Community Autism Education (PACE).
Delbert, along with his wife Mary Jo, founded PACE a few years ago to help raise awareness and understanding, along with provide educational opportunities and training.
This race serves as the organization's primary fundraiser and last year's efforts enabled PACE to bring in nationally recognized voice in autism training for law enforcement and other first responders, Dennis Debbaudt.
"The funds from the race have allowed us to do many of the things we've done this past year,'' Delbert said. "We want to keep everything we offer free and this fundraiser has enabled us to put a lot of things out there for the Autism community."
Together with the training sessions, PACE has also furnished informative packets for the parents of children who have been recently diagnosed on the Autism spectrum.
Delbert's eventual goal is to generate enough funds to bring in Dr. Temple Grandin in to speak. A professor of animal science along with a bestselling author, Grandin is a highly successful individual that also lives with a high-functioning form of Autism.
"That's our out-there goal, shoot for the stars type of thing,'' Delbert said. "I know she's spoke up in Youngstown and we're trying to see what it would take to get her to come and speak."
The race itself gets under way at 8:30 a.m. With race day signups beginning at 7. The relatively flat course and early-fall time frame create the near perfect conditions for a great race according to Delbert.
"It may be a little cool as a spectator, but it's perfect for runners and walkers,'' Delbert said. "Sometimes the heat gets brutal in the summer races. It makes it a lot more difficult. And this course is relatively flat so even a novice runner or walker could complete it."
The entry fee is $18 up until Sept. 1 when it increases to $20. Online registration is available at www.active.com.
Awards will be presented to the top three male and female runners and walkers overall and in age and masters categories. The first 200 entrants are guaranteed to receive a t-shirt.
For more information, contact Delbert at (740) 671-1982 or visit www.ovrunnersandwalkers.org/pace.htm.
Hughes may be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org