VERMILLION, S.D. -- When 20 members of The University of South Dakota Economics Department set out to raise money for Walk Now for Autism in October, they ended up sprinting past their goal as they raised more than $5,000 for Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for autism awareness.
The USD group raised $5,190 helping the Walk Now for Autism campaign raise more than $84,000 in its inaugural event, which was Oct. 11 in Sioux Falls.
David Carr, assistant professor of economics and Academic Program Coordinator for Economics at USD, indicated that the team’s initial goal was $2,000, so to surpass that total was astounding given that everyone involved was contributing in their spare time.
"I was amazed at how our students were willing to do this all for charity," said Carr, Ph.D. "No class credit was offered, yet half our department got involved. It was really impressive."
For Mandie Weinandt, an economics and business management major from Dakota Dunes, S.D., finding time to get involved was easy as her 10-year-old brother is autistic. Being able to raise money for research and awareness is significant, she said, because it provides a foundation to helping so many children.
"Autism needs to be researched," said Weinandt. "Without a strong support system, kids with autism will struggle and I want to make sure my brother gets the help he needs."
A strong support system is vital to children with special needs, according to Carr whose 5-year-old son, Joe, has autism. When the economics department was looking at a service learning project, Walk Now for Autism seemed like a perfect fit. Overall, USD’s team finished second out of 80 registered teams finishing just behind Hope Community Church of Sioux Falls. In fact, Carr and his wife, Carolyn, combined to raise just under $3,000 placing each of them in the event’s top 10 list of individual contributors.
"It was successful enough that we're looking at making this an annual fall event," stated Carr, who can be seen in a photograph with Joe during the event on the Autism Speaks newsletter: www.autismspeaks.org/walk_events/sioux_falls_walk_2008.php?tr=y&auid=4291595.
Information on the Sioux Falls' Walk Now for Autism event can be found at http://www.walknowforautism.org/site/c.kwKSJdNWJrF/b.3875847/?auid=4291626, including links to team and individual participants.
In addition to the Carr family, USD Walk Now for Autism team members included Mike Allgrunn, assistant professor of economics, and his wife, Sherrie; Tom Davies, associate dean of the Beacom School of Business and his wife, Karen; Ray Ring, professor of economics, and his wife, Mary; Randall Waldron, associate professor of economics; and students Weinandt, Matthew Adamson, Tyler Barondeau, Jesse Becker, Anne Doshier, David Fickbohm, Zach Flood, Courtney Gilchrist, Adam Limmer, Cameron Martin, Alex Morley, Nathan Pease, Alaina Seeley, Halley Backes, Sara Vetter and Kaitlin Vik.