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Marketing push boosts results for St. Charles East annual autism walk

A group of St. Charles East High School students walk in Saturday's Autism Walk-A-Thon.
A group of St. Charles East High School students walk in Saturday's Autism Walk-A-Thon.

ST. CHARLES - Brynn Beveridge and her fellow students at St. Charles East High School knew they wanted to make the school student council's annual walk-a-thon bigger than it had ever been.

But they didn't know exactly which route to take.

So, in the end, they decided to check "all of the above," said Beveridge, public relations officer for the high school's student council.

"We put up posters, set up a Twitter, Facebook and a website, contacted the newspapers, talked to local businesses, and started inviting everyone we could think of," Beveridge said. "And I think it worked out pretty well."

Saturday, the fruits of that effort were on prominent display, as more than 300 St. Charles East students, their family members, and others from the community assembled around the school's indoor track for the fifth annual fundraiser Walk-a-thon for Autism Speaks.

The event each year is organized and administered by the high school's student council, overseen by the council's faculty advisers.

When the event launched five years ago, it drew only a smattering of students, said Victor Vant, one of the council's advisers.

"If they got 30 students in here, everyone was happy," said Vant.

In each year since, attendance has grown, Vant said, reaching about 150 participants last year.

But this year, organizers wanted to take the event to a new level, said Beveridge and adviser Patty Van Lehn.

"There was a more concentrated effort this year to connect with the community," Van Lehn said.

Beveridge said she felt the event could grow much larger than it had been, and that it would, if the rest of the student body and the greater St. Charles community only knew about it.

"I participated as a walker last year as a freshman," Beveridge said. "And I thought it was such an amazing event, and a great cause.

"But I thought we could publicize it better."

The effort beganby extending an invitation to all of the students participating in St. Charles East's various clubs. From there, organizers created posters to hang throughout the school and at some St. Charles businesses.

To bolster the fundraising effort, organizers also solicited donations of goods from local businesses for a silent auction.

Vant said the extra effort will result in a collection of more than $7,000 for Autism Speaks, an organization that funds autism research and promotes autism awareness.

"We've doubled the number of walkers this year," Vant said. "I can't say enough about the job these students have done here."

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