By Maddy Vitale
Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism in Sea Isle City Sunday, Feb. 17, continued its tradition of bringing people out for a good cause — to benefit children and their families and raising money in the process.
Mike Monichetti, owner of Mike’s Seafood, and his wife, Jeannie, who have a daughter, Kara, and son, Michael Jr., with autism, organize the event.
“Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism wouldn’t be possible without the help of all the great volunteers and participants,” Mike Monichetti stressed Saturday. “It’s very heartwarming that so many people come out to help raise awareness for children with disabilities.”
The Run-Walk is a non-profit fundraiser that is separate from the Polar Bear Plunge, which is held the day before the event.
Now in its 11th year, the major fundraiser benefits special services schools, autism support groups and families with special needs children.
Monichetti said of the groups that benefit from the fundraiser, “We’re able to help out a lot of special services schools, autism support groups and families of special needs children. We are blessed.”
Every year thousands of people line up on the Promenade to participate in the Run-Walk. This year, about 1,500 people took part in the event, Monichetti said. Others were there to support their loved ones and spend quality time among family and friends.
“The Run-Walk was made up of mostly families. A lot of the families walked with their special needs children, which made it very special for me,” Monichetti pointed out.
For Monichetti and his family, every year becomes more and more meaningful as the fundraiser continues to thrive and raise awareness about autism.
Autism is a general term for complex disorders of brain development. Depending on the severity of the disorder, autistic people may have difficulties with social interaction and communication. Some may also engage in repetitive behavior.
Autism has become more prevalent in recent years, but doctors don’t know why. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that on average, one of every 59 births in the United States involves an autistic child, compared to one in 125 just 10 years ago.
Monichetti said the autism fundraiser is held every year on the Sunday after all the Polar Bear festivities are over.
“So many people look forward to the Run-Walk,” he noted. “They know that whatever the disability, their child will be accepted.”
Monichetti said the community and Sea Isle City officials are very supportive of their endeavor and help make it possible.
“The Monichetti family would like to thank everyone for their support,” he said. “And as we say, any day you can do something for children with disabilities, it’s a good day.”