Chief Mark Saunders will celebrate the eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 by “lighting it up blue” to support those with autism and their families.
The youngest of Saunders’ four children – Graham Saunders – has an autism spectrum disorder.
Every year, on World Autism Awareness Day, Autism Speaks celebrates its international “Light It Up Blue” campaign. Thousands of iconic landmarks, skyscrapers, schools, businesses and homes across the globe unite by shining bright-blue lights in honour of the millions of individuals and families affected by autism. Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada (ASC) funds programs and collaborates with others to meet the needs of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community.
Nearly 150,000 buildings – the CN Tower among them – in 140 countries across seven continents will show their support and help spread autism awareness.
Saunders will also lead the first-ever Toronto Police team in this year’s Autism Speaks Canada Walk in the city.
“Many of us at Toronto Police Service are personally touched by autism,” he said. “I invite you to show your support by joining our team. I walk for my son, Graham, and the one-in-68 people diagnosed with autism and their family and friends. As an advocate, champion and friend, I invite you and your family to take part in the walk because change happens when you walk.”
To donate, or join the walk, visit walknowforautismspeaks.ca
Andrew Stewart, who works for Parking Enforcement, is also lending his support to the Autism awareness campaign.
The 28-year-old, who has pervasive developmental delay caused by autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, Tourette’s, attention deficit disorder and a significant learning disability, fulfilled a dream of working for the Service late last year.
Stewart said he enjoys being an advocate and educating others about his disabilities.
“I want to get rid of the stigma,” he said.
“I was always taught you don’t hide from it you shout about it.”