April is Autism Awareness Month and for the third year in a row the Aroostook Autism Support Group, located in Presque Isle, will be holding the popular Autism Challenge.


(Above: Runners and walkers alike take off from the starting gate of last year’s event. The 3rd Annual Autism Challenge 5K Run & Walk takes place on Saturday, April 30th at the Presque Isle Middle School track).

The Autism Challenge consists of both a 5K run/walk and a dinner and auction on Saturday, April 30.

Founded in 2014, the purpose of Aroostook Autism Support Group is to provide support to individuals and their families affected by autism.  AASG aims to promote education and awareness to build a community that offers both hope and acceptance to all in need.  The Autism Challenge is one way that the group raises money to help support their efforts throughout the year.

Registration gets underway at the Presque Isle Middle School at 8:15 a.m. for the race portion of the day’s activities.  A 1 mile Kids Fun Run begins at 9:30 a.m. and the 5K Run & Walk starts at 10:00 a.m. The 5K is a fully supported running race with awards. Entry fees are $5 for the Kids’ Fun Run and $30 for the 5K event.  All proceeds from the 5K Run & Walk and the 1 mile Kid’s Fun Run benefit the Aroostook Autism Support Group, and will go directly to continued programming in Aroostook County.

This is one of the first races of the season,” said Jamie Guerrette, community health specialist at TAMC. “It’s a perfect opportunity to get out and get moving and usher in spring. TAMC is thrilled to sponsor this event, and whether you take part in the run or simply walk the course with friends, it all helps to support a wonderful cause.”

Later that evening there will be a dinner and auction held at the Caribou Inn & Convention Center. The cocktail hour and silent auction begins at 4:30 p.m., and Matt Brown, from Autism Safety Education & Training (ASET), will provide the keynote speech at 5:30 p.m. The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. with a live auction to follow.

Tickets for the dinner and auction are $35/single, $60/couple, and $250/table. They can be purchased at Merchants on the Corner in Presque Isle by cash and check only. If you’d like to purchase a table please contact Lisa Brewer at aasgmaine@gmail.com.

We are always so moved by the support we receive from our community for the Autism Challenge,” said Lisa Brewer, cofounder of AASG. “The money raised from this event helps us to put on several other events and to provide trainings that otherwise would not be available in our area.  Every sponsorship and donation makes a big difference for my family and others like ours.”

Sponsors for the Autism Challenge include:  Thompson-Hamel, LLC; TAMC; Graves Super Markets; County Super Spuds; MMG Insurance; State Farm – John Harvell; Gregg Auctions and the Caribou Inn & Convention Center.

In addition to the Autism Challenge, the Aroostook Autism Support Group is coordinating a number of other activities planned for April’s National Autism Awareness Month, including:


April 2: House of Bounce – A fun gathering to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. It all begins at 9:30 a.m. and costs $5 per child and includes a slushie. This is open to special needs children and their siblings. Pre-registration is required.

April 6: Aroostook Autism Support Meeting – Presentation from Robin Levesque from Maine Parent Foundation, to be held at TAMC’s A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital Campus in conference room McCain B from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.  As a kickoff to Autism Awareness Month, Robin will be on hand to lead a discussion on advocacy.

April 9: Wintergreen Arts Center – Open Studio for Families with Children with Special Needs, located at Wintergreen Arts Center from 11:00 – 12:00 p.m.  Wintergreen Arts Center, in conjunction with Aroostook Autism Support, is holding an open studio for families who have children with special needs.  Preregistration is required for this event.

April 16: Special Needs Dance and Movement with Allison Reed, to be held at the Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center in conference room 4 from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. This class is FREE and will be for special needs children ages 5-15. Each child must be accompanied by an adult in a supportive role to help if needed during the class. Preregistration is required.

April 23: Braden Theater – Sensory-Friendly Screening of Finding Nemo, to be held at the Braden Theater at 10:00 a.m.  Aroostook Autism Support is hosting a Sensory-Friendly Screening of the children’s animated film Finding Nemo. Admission is $10 and that includes your ticket, small popcorn, and a small drink. This event is open to any and all - special needs not required, but tolerance and understanding is.

April 29: ASET Training with Matt Brown, to be held in the conference center at TAMC’s A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital Campus at 6 p.m.  A former law enforcement officer, Matt Brown developed the Autism Safety Education Training program in 2013 and has been traveling nonstop to bring this necessary training across the country to benefit as many communities as possible. The mission of ASET is to provide education and training about Autism Spectrum Disorders to first responders- police, fire/rescue/EMS, dispatchers, corrections and the Courts, as well as schools and other community partners. Matt Brown brings his experience providing this training since 2004 back to the county, in an effort to ensure safety and justice for persons affected by Autism, as well as those who interact with them in crisis situations.  This event is full.  Please contact Maeghan Swanson to be placed on a wait list at aasgmaine@Hotmail.com

Local organizations or groups looking to support the efforts of the Autism Challenge monetarily or with auction items should contact Aroostook Autism Support Group at aasgmaine@hotmail.com.