ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Many gathered on Saturday, in support of a new nonprofit. Spectrum Connection, an organization dedicated to helping families and individuals living with autism, hosted its first-ever Walk for Autism.

In the past, there have been other walks for autism for the Big Country.

Physical therapist with the West Texas Rehabilitation Center, Jobeth Willis, said it’s events like these that keep families living with autism inspired and at peace.  

“To give them a connection so that they can talk, learn and do what’s best for their child.”

With smiles on parents’ and kids’ faces, everyone laced up their shoes to hit the trails of Red Bud Park. 

“I think it gives families hope to see other families who have children with autism,” Willis explained with optimism.

One Abilene family in attendance, the Fuentebella family, brought along their 14-year-old son, Dustin, who has autism.

“It’s nice to have this activity where we can also reach out to others and explain how our kids are,” the family said.

The Fuentebella family said they believe being a part of this event not only raises awareness but also brings a sense of belonging to their family and sometimes challenging lifestyle.  

“It gives us a little bit of confidence being outside in the community,” the Fuentabella mother said. “Knowing that a lot of people understand their needs.”

According to recent studies from the CDC, 1 in 44 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  

“You see a kid come in that doesn’t have any language at all and then a couple of weeks go by and they say their first word or say their first demand. It’s just really amazing in watching the progress,” said participant Shelbi Wehmeyer.  

With the encouragement of local autism outreach organizations each step of the way, Wehmeyer reassures parents that they are not alone. 

“They’re very excited to see all of us out here to support them,” Wehmeyer supported. “So, we’re just excited to be here!”