Third autism awareness festival to be held downtown Saturday

The number of children who are diagnosed with autism seems to rise every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, one in 68 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a 30 percent increase from two years ago, when the estimate was one in 88.

Raising awareness of the disorder helps with early detection and prevention. The third autism awareness festival will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the corner of East Third and Mulberry streets, next to 33 East restaurant.

The “kid-friendly” fundraising event, organized by two Lycoming County natives, Kelsey Follmer and Jachelle Yingling, will feature live music by Michael Caschera, a 20-foot inflatable dual slide, balloon animals, sensory activities and crafts for children. There also will be baked goods with items donated from local bakeries and hot dogs and other food for sale.

Follmer said the event also will have information to educate the public about autism, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and Down syndrome.

“We want to branch out and education people on more physical and mental disorders,” she said. “The more we are aware, the less we are to judge.”

Last year’s event raised about $5,000 for Connor’s Connection, an organization that supports the educational needs of autistic youth in Lycoming County.

This year’s event fundraising goal is $8,000 and all money raised will benefit the District 12 local Little League Challenger Division.

“Jachelle and I are very excited to be able to help several different teams in the league with purchasing their uniforms, paying for equipment and possible tournaments,” Follmer said.

The event, which is free to attend, relies solely on donations.

All donations made at the event are tax deductible.

“We feel that this festival benefits the community because it presents the opportunity to allow a family to come enjoy a kid-friendly festival for free,” Follmer said. “The kids get to enjoy themselves with balloon animals, an inflatable duel slide and much more while the adults are able to take away a piece of newly learned knowledge about various disabilities.”

For more information, contact Follmer at 570-772-3581.