Fundraiser to benefit autism program

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If you go

What: Skate-a-thon for the Yampa Valley Autism Program

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Howelsen Ice Arena

Cost: Participants can pledge $25 or skate for 50 cents a lap from sponsors

Call: 870-6257

— It didn't take much time for Lu Etta Loeber to join the board of directors for the Yampa Valley Autism Program.

With a 12-year-old grandson who has severe and profound autism, Loeber - who is now the program's executive director - knows firsthand the kinds of support and services necessary for families affected by the condition.

On Saturday, the Yampa Valley Autism Program holds its first Skate-a-thon to benefit family services for people with autism and related disabilities. The event is from 1 to 4 p.m. at Howelsen Ice Arena and includes music and refreshments.

"These monies will go directly to support the families, with family services and respite therapies," Loeber said.

The Yampa Valley Autism Program works to provide family support, therapy and respite care to children who show signs of autism spectrum disorder. That includes financial support for treatments and services not covered by some health insurance, as well as personal and medical support for families. The program currently serves 35 local families.

"These are services that are necessary to support this disease. All of these services help maximize the quality of life and help these individuals reach their potential," Loeber said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines autism as "a group of developmental disabilities defined by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests." Symptoms range in severity, and the condition is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls.

"Children with autism have to be looked after 24/7. And because of their special needs, it's hard to get babysitters. So even something as simple as going to the grocery store can be impossible at times," Loeber said.

Participants in the Skate-a-Thon are asked to contribute a $25 donation or gather sponsors to give 50 cents for each lap they skate.

Leslie Curley, whose daughter Payton turns 6 on Saturday, coordinated her birthday celebration with the Skate-a-thon. Curley said the effort should bring a good number of sponsors to the event. Payton is not autistic.

"We just tried to do her birthday in conjunction with the Skate-a-thon to encourage people coming to the party to support a good cause," Curley said, adding she has a cousin in Denver who has worked with autistic children in Steamboat.

"When I saw the Skate-a-thon was on (Payton's birthday), I thought that was kind of a fun way to get participation," she said.

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