Posted by: Autism Speaks | September 25, 2009

Long Island WNFAS: 10 Year Walk Team Stories – Team Kerry/Team Genesis/St. Ignatius Loyola

10th Walk Anniversary logo

This year the Long Island Walk Now for Autism Speaks is celebrating its 10th anniversary! To celebrate this milestone we are recognizing the Walk teams that have participated in every Walk with their story.

Meet Team Kerry/Team Genesis/St. Ignatius Loyola!

LouAnne Haley is a woman who wears many proverbial hats – as a mother of two daughters, an executive at a local radio station, a tireless advocate for individuals affected by autism, including her fifteen year old daughter, Kerry, and a ten year Long Island Walk participant.

She became involved with the Walk when the parents of a child in Kerry’s Saturday autism program told her about the first Walk meeting. She attended the meeting and was warmly “welcomed into the fold.” The organizers of the Walk knew a good thing when they saw it, and because of LouAnne’s professional background, they asked her to handle media coverage and publicity for the Walk.

Armed with a mother’s fierce determination and as a valued employee, LouAnne went back to her employer (the Long Island Radio Group/KJOY,) presented her new “cause” and asked for help. The Radio Group agreed to record and run public service announcements about the Walk, and her colleague, on-air personality Jim Douglas, agreed to serve as Master of Ceremonies on Walk Day.

The media campaign worked so well that “they couldn’t answer the phone fast enough!” according to LouAnne. Over five thousand people showed up on Walk Day at Eisenhower Park. “People were pouring in. I was in tears, standing there watching the people. We were giddy.” LouAnne’s sister called her to say she couldn’t get near the Park. She walked about a mile to get there from her parking spot – a long walk to the Walk! LouAnne said that the Walk “far exceeded our greatest expectations.”

Team Kerry, made up of the Haley’s family and friends, raised $10,000 of the $500,000 total generated through the Walk! In subsequent years, Team Kerry joined with Team Genesis (Kerry attended the Genesis School at that time.), and later became St. Ignatius Loyola School Team (the school LouAnne’s younger daughter, Lindsay, attended.)

In the past ten years, LouAnne has noticed a huge increase in the awareness and understanding of autism by the general public. Ten years ago, she says that the typical reaction to the mention of autism was “What’s that? It has gone from no awareness to everybody knowing of it. It is the disease in vogue right now; it has changed 180 degrees. For that I credit Autism Speaks completely.”

LouAnne had a tough time choosing one favorite Walk, so she narrowed it down to two “firsts”. The first Walk in 2000 at Eisenhower Park – “that had to be the best. Up to that point, I really felt “underground.” At the Walk, I felt like I came out – I had my job, my family and my friends behind me. The whole community rose up to help me.”

The other “first” was the first Walk at Jones Beach, which “geographically multiplied in size. It went to another level. I stood in the brick building (the East Bathhouse) looking out at a sea of people (on the boardwalk) as endless and infinite as the ocean.” She remembers it as “really moving stuff.”

LouAnne has remained very active and involved in the Long Island Walk Now for Autism Speaks both as a Walk Planning Committee member and Team Captain. As she says “We’ve made great strides in a short amount of time.”

We salute LouAnne and her teams for ten years of support. Team Kerry, Team Genesis and St. Ignatius Loyola School have raised a combined total of $53,378! Thank you for your support!

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