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Village Free Press: Fundraiser held to support autism and disability not-for-profit

The Answer Inc raised $47,000 in annual Walk-A-Thon

Threese Alexander, one of The Answer Inc students received the trophy for raising the most funds in the 16th annual Walk-A-Thon | Provided, The Answer Inc. NKFI CEO Jackie Burgess-Bishop is pictured, back right

May 8, 2023 || By Francia Garcia Hernandez

Last Saturday, 550 people of all ages gathered at Proviso West High School, 4701 W. Harrison St., Hillside for a good cause. For the 16th year, the local not-for-profit organization The Answer Inc held its Walk-A-Thon event, an opportunity for local community members to raise funds for caregiving families and people living with autism and developmental disabilities. The funds will be used to sponsor their attendance at a horseback riding camp, provide a $500 scholarship to a diverse learner and expand the not-for-profit’s programs.

Horseback riding helps people with disabilities develop balance and rhythm, indirectly teaching them motor skills and focus abilities while increasing their self-confidence. It is one of several recreational events where people with autism and developmental disabilities can learn while having a fun experience.

On Saturday, teams and individuals walked around the high school’s indoor track to raise funds. For the first time, one of The Answer Inc’s students, Threese Alexander, raised the most money. In total, the not-for-profit raised $47,000 out of its $55,000 goal and is still accepting donations.

At Saturday’s fun-filled event, local families and attendees enjoyed games, raffles, hula hoop demonstrations, life size characters and live music.

“We have something for all ages because we want our families to know that we support them as well as their loved ones who may be living with a special need,” founder and CEO Debra Vines said. In 2022, she was one of the top 10 CNN Heroes.

Through programs like “Powerful Parents of Autism” and “Just for Men,” The Answer Inc supports and provides resources for families who care for children and adults with autism and developmental disabilities, serving approximately 1,000 families each year. In “Just for Men” it provides a safe space for fathers of people with autism and developmental disabilities to chat and connect with other fathers. It also serves parents through a 24-hour support line available at 708-296-5651.

Attendees could also learn about available resources and local businesses from 80 participating vendors and get free health screenings provided by the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.

“The music was by DJ B-Low, who is one of our students,” said Vines said. “So not only are we providing a resource and awareness to the community, we are teaching workforce development and providing jobs.”

The Answer Inc helps employers connect with eligible people with autism to find job opportunities through their Spectrum University Tutoring Program. According to the nonprofit, more than a third of young adults on the autism spectrum do not have a job or are not enrolled in college.

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