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Walk the dog, treat autism at Lake Sammamish pet event
Snoqualmie resident Tonya Guinn invites all comers to walk the dog while supporting autism research at the second annual Pet Walk for Autism, 11 a.m. Saturday, April 24, at Lake Sammamish State Park.
President of the board for the Today's Hope foundation, Guinn is also mom to a 6-year-old kindergartner at Snoqualmie Elementary School who has autism spectrum. Autism meant that her son, Tanner, didn't speak until age 3.
Tonya held the first Pet Walk to help children like her son receive opportunities to succeed.
"We've been able to provide him with speech (assistance), all the things that everyone would like to have, but can't afford because of the costs," Guinn said.
Raising about $5,000 at last year's Pet Walk, Guinn hopes to reach the non-profit's goal of $36,000. That amount will help a family with an autistic child cover costs over three years for a variety of early intervention services.
"Early intervention is critical, but the cost is staggering," Guinn said. "The average monthly bill is north of $2,500, more than $30,000 a year."
Participation in the Pet Walk is growing, thanks to increased awareness and support from the community and school system.
At the walk, families and their canine friends can enjoy a day of food, games and vendors. A special demonstration by Puget Sound DockDogs allows pooches to try their paws at long jump, compete for costume and other awards, and meet and greet dog lovers.
Not an owner of a dog? Washington County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (WCSPCA) will be there with dogs to walk and adopt.
Guinn said the Pet Walk is an appropriate fundraiser for WSPCA, as pets are increasingly used in therapy roles.
Gaining more support from her neighbors, Guinn said it starts with the education that Today's Hope has shared on autism with the Valley.
"A lot of people don't know the signs," she said. "In the last year we've gone from one in every 150 to one in every 110 kids who have autism. These are nationwide numbers."
As people get to know the signs and symptoms of autism, they'll be able to diagnose and help their child earlier. Early diagnosis is key to a better outcome, Guinn emphasized.
To become a vendor or for more information on the Pet Walk for Autism email Tonya Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.