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Spring Sprint for Autism Is Just Around the Corner

International Junior Miss Rachel Barcellona and Sheriff Chris Nocco will be the honorary starters at the second annual 5K run.

Lace up your sneakers, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.

It's time to hit the pavement.

The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of South Florida (CARD-USF) has partnered with Oakstead Elementary School to hold the Spring Sprint for Autism 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run on Saturday, March 17.

Pasco County Commissioners recently passed a resolution declaring March 17 Spring Sprint for Autism Day,” event organizer Christine Rover of CARD said.

Proceeds from the event support physical fitness programs at Oakstead Elementary and autism awareness in the community, Rover said.

Oakstead Elementary "has a huge running club, and has such a great program to promote wellness," she said.

Half of the funds raised will benefit Oakstead’s wellness program. The other half will go to CARD, and in turn support Pasco County ESE programs.

More than 600 runners competed in the 2011 inaugural race, Rover said. The race is certified and chip-timed, which attracted serious runners, in addition to many first-time racers.

“We really wanted to do a quality race that would bring in new supporters that may not know about autism and engage the younger kids around health and wellness,” Rover said.

Rover said representatives from Oakstead approached CARD about organizing a race about two years ago. They wanted to find ways to support students with autism throughout Pasco County, Rover said.

Children with autism who do not play organized or team sports can run for physical fitness; the race is one way to promote that, Rover said.

A lot of children ran in the event last year, “and would’ve beat me!” Rover laughed.

About 150 runners are pre-registered so far this year, Rover said.  About 200 runners registered on the morning of the race last year, which can be little tricky to plan for.

“We’re really hoping to have people take advantage of early bird rates,” Rover said. And people who register in advance can be assured that “their funds are going to a good cause even if they don’t feel like running that morning.”

There will be a DJ, food and giveaways at the stadium, as well as awards for race winners, a press release stated.

Rachel Barcellona will be the Honorary Starter, along with Sheriff Chris Nocco. Barcellona was recently crowned International Junior Miss and will be featured in the February/March edition of Supermodels Unlimited Magazine, Rover said.

“Rachel's platform is autism awareness and she speaks to this topic from personal experience since she is a young lady diagnosed with autism,” Rover said.  

This year’s race starts near the Shoppe’s at Sunlake Centre on Sunlake Boulevard and finishes in the Sunlake High School Stadium, 3023 Sunlake Blvd.

Day-of registration begins at 6 a.m. The 5K begins at 7:30 a.m. A one-mile fun run starts at 8:15 a.m.

Awards will be three-deep in the age categories, which start at 7 years and younger and go to 65 and older.

About 25 volunteers are still needed to help with the event, Rover said. If you would like to help out, contact her at 813-974-9264 or email crover@usf.edu.

To register as a runner, visit the race website or download the attached registration form in Patch's photo gallery.

For more information about CARD, autism and other upcoming events, visit the CARD website or call 800-333-4530.  

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