Sac State professor joins walk to raise awareness


Autism walk:About 8,000 participants walked the two-mile stretch from Raley Field to the Capitol during the third annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks on Sunday. :Robert Linggi – State Hornet

Mike Suechting

Among the 8,000 people who participated in Sacramento’s third annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks on Sunday was the family of Sacramento State business marketing professor Mark Fragoso, whose 2-year-old son, Cruz, was diagnosed with autism six months ago.

“It is helping bring awareness to how wide spread autism touches everyone regardless of their race, or socio-economic situation,” Fragoso said. “Money is being raised to hopefully someday find a cure or develop something to prevent this from happening to one in every 110 kids.”

The Fragoso family, dubbed Team Cruz, walked for more than two miles from Raley Field to the Capitol. The team is made of Mark and his wife, Karen Fragoso; their three sons, Amiliano, 10, Luca, 3, and Cruz; Karen’s brother, Andrew Brown; Karen’s stepsister Jessica Thornsberry; her sister Kim Johnson and son Trevor; and friend Stephanie Brannan with kids Allison and Katelyn.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks is a national fundraising event put on by the nation’s leading autism advocacy organization, Autism Speaks. Its purpose is to raise money for scientific research on causes, prevention and treatment of autism; to raise awareness about the disorder; and to advocate for the needs of autistic individuals and their families.

Autism is a neurological disorder that inhibits social interactions, imagination and the ability to communicate ideas and feelings. Kristen Byrne, chair of Walk Now For Autism Speaks, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called autism a national public health crisis with unknown causes and cure.

“If it’s just a matter of a vaccination they need to get it done,” Thornsberry said.

Autism Speaks’ fundraising target for the Sacramento event was $250,000. After the walk, the total amount earned was $217,000, which will continue to grow for 10 days following the event, Byrne said.

Team Cruz raised a total of $495. Karen Fragoso said they received donations from family, friends and Mark Fragoso’s co-workers by sending e-mails and utilizing Facebook.

Mark Fragoso said his initial feeling after learning of his son’s condition was sadness.

“Then optimism to help Cruz fight this,” he said.

During the walk, the line of marchers was so long that as the first batch reached the Capitol, the last was just leaving Raley Field. Many people carried huge banners with pictures of family members, while others were dressed in Star Wars and Disney costumes as they paraded down the streets.

About 166 people volunteered at the event, with many of them coming in groups from Sacramento schools, such as Whitney, Del Oro and Laguna Creek high schools.

Sponsors for Walk Now for Autism Speaks included Toys “R’ Us and Babies “R’ Us on a national level and regional companies, such as Car Czar, Walt Grey Ride, Celestin’s Island Eats, Surewest Foundation, Learning Solutions, Creekside Academy and KFBK 1530 AM.

Stephanie Celestin, of Celestin’s Island Eats, has a 3-year-old daughter with autism. She said this is her first year attending the event, and after doing extensive research, she found that Autism Speaks was the best organization available for her family.

Mike Suechting can be reached at [email protected].