The Seton Hall swimming and diving teams showed their support for Autism awareness on Oct. 15, as 20 members stepped up and took part in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event at Nomahegan Park in Cranston, N.J.
What started as an effort by a small number of teammates last year blossomed into an involvement which encompassed a large portion of the team. The increase in numbers helped the Pirate swimmers and divers double their amount of money raised from $600 last year to $1,200 this year.
Senior Kylene Ronayne led the charge, organizing the fundraiser among the swimmers. Ronayne decided the walk would be a worthwhile fundraiser to participate in again because of last year’s positive experience. She also thought it would be a meaningful fundraiser for many of the swimmers, as several have had experiences with autistic children in the past, whether it be within their family or at school.
“Personally, two family friends of mine have autism so I’ve spent a good amount of time with them,” Ronayne said. “And I know some of the other people that went to the fundraiser have family members with autism or grew up with someone with autism.”
Junior Emily Barnard was also instrumental in planning the fundraiser. As a special education major with a concentration in speech pathology, Barnard has had the opportunity to work with autistic children as she pursues her degree, making the fundraiser all the more meaningful for her.
“I actually work with a lot of autistic kids,” Barnard said. “That’s what I want my focus to be so I do a lot of volunteering with that community. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of this and see how excited the kids can get.”
Pirates coach Derek Sapp could not be happier with his team’s efforts outside of the pool.
“Members of the team have become very passionate about [the cause], and they organize it on their own,” Sapp said. “I could not be more proud knowing that we have student-athletes who care so much about a great cause.”
It is causes like this which help further research and knowledge on autism, which according to autismspeaks.org, now affects one in 68 children and one in 42 boys.
Andrew Lombardo can be reached at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lombardo_andrew.