Tri-County student organizes autism 5K

   Murphy – When Cameron Brown was tasked with his senior project, the concept was a no-brainer.
   The Tri-County Early College senior has worked closely with cross-country coach Gary Kenney to create the Run for Autism 5K Run/Walk, an event that will be held at Konehete Park on Saturday. Race-day registration is at 7:30 a.m., while the event itself begins at 9 a.m.
   “I wanted to work with the community about something that interests me,” Brown said.
   “It’s very important to me. I don’t feel like a lot is known about autism, or how it affects people. So I wanted to create an event to spread awareness.”
   Brown conceived the idea from personal experience. Diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder at age 8, Brown has came a long way in the last decade.
   “When you have autism, things that may be simple for some people could be complicated, but other things that those people can’t get may be very easy for you,” Brown said. “It can cause a whole lot of issues and struggles. I wasn’t very social when I was younger and I still get nervous talking to people.
   “Medicine can help, but most of the time, people with autism seek therapy. However, there are some autistic people that do not have to undergo therapy. Some may go their whole life and not know they have it.”
   His social skills and hand-eye coordination started improving once he found an outlet for his built-up energy: cross-country.
   Kenney worked at Martins Creek School when Brown was in eighth grade and observed his struggles during physical education class. Kenney convinced Brown to join the cross-country team, in an effort to help the eighth-grader break out of his shell.
   “When I first started coaching him, he wouldn’t even look me in the eye when I spoke to him. Plus, he was non-verbal,” Kenney said. “Cross-country was a great sport for him. It provided some therapy for him. The energy is always running, so it’s a great outlet. Plus, the whole team has helped him, socially.”
   Brown admits his social skills have came a long way. Speaking with him is like speaking to anyone else. After graduation, Brown has plans to attend Western Carolina University and major in computer science.
   The race will give all of its proceeds to the Autism Society of North Carolina. Thanks to the generosity of an $800 donation from Murphy Granite Outlet, the event’s overhead has already been cleared.
   Registration is $20 and includes a T-shirt. Runners that do not wish to get a shirt can signup for $15, while high school athletes can run in the event for $10. Goody bags will be available, full of material to help bring a better understanding of autism to the surface. Donations to the autism society also can be made at the race.
   For details on the event, Kenney can be reached at 557-0020.

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