Autism Project announces Light It Up Blue, Walk for Autism

Challenger League player DJ Wise, of Portsmouth, gets Tom on the field for some fun at last year’s Autism Walk.

Ethan Cooper, of Portsmouth, gives the opening prayer at last year’s autism event.

The Autism Project of Southern Ohio is excited to paint April blue for autism with events throughout the month.

Autism Project of Southern Ohio President Mike Bell explained that April 2 kicks off Autism Awareness Month with International Light It Up Blue for Autism Day.

“Even the Taj Mahal will be lit up blue,” Bell commented.

Celebrating Light It Up Blue Day, the Autism Project has teamed up with Jim Dandy in Portsmouth for a Light It Up Blue event from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 2. The event will include a cruise-in, music by KC Productions, food and a variety of autism gear including t-shirts, coffee mugs, magnets and yard signs.

“Bring the family, and let’s have a fantastic time,” Bell encouraged.

The Autism Project will then end the month with the 15th Annual Walk for Autism from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 29th at Milbrook Park in New Boston. The event is a day long celebration that usually brings in a few heroes and even cartoon characters.

“This year, we are switching it up a bit and doing a poker walk,” Bell stated.

Walkers will collect poker cards along the route. Those that return with the best hands will be awarded with monetary prizes.

There will also be a live band, DJ, annual auction, vendors, food and games put on the by the District 11 Challenger League Baseball team.

Bell explained that the Autism Project started in 1998.

“Our mission is to raise awareness, to educate the public about autism, to support those with autism and Aspergers and to help autistic children and adults to thrive in school and in the community,” Bell stated.

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects one in 68 children nationally and is more common in boys. Autistic cases range across a spectrum from very severe to mild.

“They see things from a different view that we do,” Bell explained. “They may do things a bit differently than we do, but autistic individuals when accomplishing tasks can get the same results we do. They just have a different way of getting there.”

Bell first got involved with the Autism Project approximately 15 years ago as a parent of an autistic child. Bell’s son is now 22.

“He was pretty much raised up in the project,” Bell commented. “We’re not just the Autism Project, we’re family.”

100 percent of funds raised by the Autism Project go back into the support of the local autism community.

“We are all volunteers. We are all parents,” Bell stated as he explained that no one with the Autism Project is paid.

Funds are used to take local autistic families on weekend camping trips, monthly movie nights, trips to Camden Park, donations to local school sensory rooms and scholarship funds. Last year, the Autism Project awarded seven scholarships to autistic students entering college or the siblings of autistic individuals. Bell explained that the Autism Project is excited to continue that program. A portion of funding will also go into a building fund to allow the Autism Project to open a service center in the future.

For more information about the Autism Project and upcoming events check the Autism Project of Southern Ohio Facebook page or visit

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.