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Johnson City fire and police departments raise autism awareness

JOHNSON CITY (WBNG) — April is Autism Awareness Month but local first responders were busy well before the month began collecting money for an organization in the area.

The Johnson City police and fire departments teamed up to sell T-shirts.

“We wanted to bring awareness to the first responders and the families of autism, that we’re out there and we understand that there might be different circumstances when you’re assisting people in the community with autism,” said Johnson City Police Patrolman Josh Bilek.

Bilek says it’s something that hits close to home for him.

“It’s a unique circumstance and there’s many different things that someone with autism might represent to you or present when you’re helping them out,” he said.

He knows first-hand the importance of advocating and accepting autism.

“Just to be able to educate and to have acceptance for that is huge for me as a dad with a son with autism,” he said.

Although the T-shirt sale ended Sunday night, spreading the message has only just begun.

“We usually wear pins for the month of April on our lapels instead of our regular collar brass and it opens the door for people to ask what it’s about and what we’re doing as first responders to educate our guys on autism,” added Bilek.

Proceeds from the more than 250 T-shirts sold will go directly to a local organization, Alive with Autism.

“We support our families in Broome and Tioga counties and we help with items that may not be covered by insurance or families in need of,” said Alive with Autism President Lori Martin.

She says the donation will go a long way to help families in the Southern Tier.

“Support for communication, for food items, or items they may need in the home to help their child, apps for their applications for speech,” she said.

The organization will be presented with the check on April 28 at its walk and family fun day at Otsiningo Park.

It’ll take place from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

If you’d like to go, all you have to do is show up. No registration is required.

Esperanza Gutierrez

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