The third annual New Canaan "All Out for Autism" 5K Walk/Run Road Race, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26, will raise funds for a special needs fitness area that is planned for Waveny Park. Although the area has been designed as an exercise and socializing environment for older students with Autism and other special needs, it is also expected to be used by seniors and other adults, as well as by the high school's student athletes. Sponsors of the race this year include New Balance of New Canaan, KARL Chevrolet, Joe's Pizza, Rosie, Walter Stewart's Market, C&H Automotive, Hagendoorn & Emond Insurance, and the nonprofit group SPED*NET New Canaan.

"We're on the final push to raise an additional $15,000 needed for the fitness area, which we expect to be installed this fall," said Ron Rosenfeld, owner of the local New Balance store."

Rosenfeld and his wife, Tina, had observed parents coming into the store to buy shoes for their child, unaccompanied by the child, then coming back months later to buy new shoes, still without their child. When the parents remarked that their child had autism, the Rosenfelds opened the store after hours to accommodate the families and began asking how else they could help. They joined forces with SPED*NET, a local nonprofit that serves families with special needs children, and began to help raise funds for a multi-generational community outdoor fitness area that would help relieve the isolation many families felt.

The "All Out for Autism" 5K race course winds through downtown New Canaan and neighboring streets; a one-mile children's fun run is also available. New Balance shoes will be awarded to the top 3 overall 5k winners (male & female), and New Balance Gift Certificates will be presented to the top 3 in each age category (male & female).

Pre-Registration, available at New Balance of New Canaan or online at raceit.com, is $15 before Aug. 20; pre-registration is $20 from Aug. 21 to 25. Race-day registration is $25 through 6:15 p.m. The registration fee for New Canaan High School Students is $10. Runners should check-in before the race at the New Balance store; the race kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Pre-registered racers will receive a complimentary T-shirt, and refreshments will be served following the race.

More Information

Fact box

"KARL Chevrolet joins New Balance in underwriting the `All Out for Autism' race again this year because events like these highlight health, family fitness and community," said Steve Karl, vice president of KARL Chevrolet. "We've been involved since the beginning in helping to raise funds for the fitness area, which will add so much to the quality of life for many families in town. We also love the way these races bring people to the downtown area, which is great for New Canaan -- and since New Canaan kicks off its first annual `Restaurant Week' on the 25th, we encourage families to come for the race and then stay and try one of our great restaurants in town!" he added.

"There are currently about 500 students in the New Canaan public schools with an IEP [individual education plan], and nationally 1 in every 150 children born today is diagnosed with autism," said Judi Anders, president of the nonprofit SPED*NET and mother of a child with autism. "When these children reach their teenage years, it's more difficult to take them into the community. They've outgrown playgrounds. The fitness area will provide a structured, friendly, and inclusive environment for children with special needs to exercise and socialize," she said.

The 60-foot diameter fitness area, which will be installed near the grove of trees in front of the Waveny mansion, next to the soccer fields, has been approved by the relevant Town boards. The approximately $60,000 price tag is being covered by private funds, at no cost to the Town.

The fitness area will feature a circuit of a dozen stations and an announcement board in a green and tan color scheme, installed on an engineered wood surface. A black timber border will set the area apart from the surrounding terrain and help families confine the facility's use to children over 12 and adults. A path will lead from the soccer fields parking area to the fitness area.

The circuit of exercise stations, supplied by Greenfield Outdoor Fitness Equipment, will work on every part of the body. Equipment will include a 2-person Tai-Chi Spinner; 2-person Sit-Up Incline Bench; 4-person Pendulum, Abs & Dip Station; 2-person Air Walker; 2-person Cross Country Ski; 4-person Twisting Machine; Lat Pull-Down & Vertical Press Combo; 2-person Chest Press; Rower; 4-person Leg Press; and Single Elliptical Cross Trainer.

Installation is planned for this fall, with a dedication in early October, Ms. Anders said.

Tax deductible contributions for the fitness area are welcome; checks should be made out to the organization SPED*NET. For more information visit AllOutforAutism.org or join the All Out for Autism Facebook group.