Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blue Lights Increase Autism Awareness

Pittsburghers will wonder why several local landmarks are shining bright blue tomorrow night. At least, that’s Mark Tallarico’s hope.

Tallarico is Executive Director of Autism Speaks of Greater Pittsburgh, and he’s hoping that literally shining blue lights on the skyline will shed light on and bring attention to the widespread mental disorder of autism.

He’s joined by 30 countries and all 50 U.S. states, where everything from homes to skyscrapers will be illuminated with blue light. That includes Australia’s Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, and Niagara Falls. In Pittsburgh, that means both inclines, the Highmark Building, and the Carnegie Library’s main campus.

“It goes [from] as simple as homes lighting up at the Perry Cuomo statue in Canonsburg, all the way up to some of the major structures around the world,” says Tallarico.

The “Light It Up Blue” campaign kicks off Autism Awareness Month. Tallarico says he hopes people will take the opportunity to wear blue on Autism Awareness Day (Saturday), or take part in Autism Speaks conferences and events.

Tallarico says autism diagnosis has increased to the point where 1 of 110 children is affected by the disorder.

“There are more children diagnosed with autism than there are with diabetes, cancer and AIDS combined, so it’s very important that we tackle this problem,” says Tallarico.

He says he hopes the month’s events can build excitement for the twelfth annual autism walk at Heinz Field on June 4. Tallarico says he expects “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” to attract about 12,000 people and raise as much as $1 million.

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