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updated: 11/6/2012 11:10 AM

South Elgin couple heads up Autism Speaks Chicago walk

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A South Elgin couple is hoping to bring autism awareness to the Fox Valley as co-chairs of the 10th anniversary Chicago walk for Autism Speaks, a nationwide research and advocacy organization.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks has never been chaired by Fox Valley residents and has always held the majority of its pre-walk events closer to Chicago. Sarah Hamilton and her husband Shane want to change that.

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Hamilton said her son Cole, 6, has developmental delays consistent with the autism spectrum -- he was diagnosed four years ago, after which the family connected with Autism Speaks.

"When you first hear that your child is autistic, it's like any other thing -- you don't know what to do," Hamilton said. "You don't know what to do with that information and where you're supposed to go and where to get help."

Once the South Elgin family connected with Autism Speaks, they got a First 100 Days kit to help in the months after the diagnosis and tapped into a network of other parents going through similar issues.

After four years of recruiting a couple dozen friends and family members to participate in the Chicago walk for Autism Speaks, the Hamiltons have stepped up to the plate to lead the organizing.

Two kick off parties are planned for the Fox Valley -- two more than have been held in this area in past years.

"We really hope to bring more awareness to the Fox Valley area and understanding of families and people affected by autism," Hamilton said.

Autism affects one in 88 children and one in 54 boys, according to Autism Speaks. The Chicago walk aims to raise about $1 million for research and advocacy work throughout the year.

The three-mile walk will be held May 18 starting at Chicago's Soldier Field. Teams can register for free at any time and volunteers are encouraged to get involved in coming months. The kickoff events will start in March.

Visit walknowforautismspeaks.org for details.

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