A record number of participants took part in Saturday's seventh annual One Step Closer Autism Walk & 5K Run presented by the Howard County Autism Society.

“More than 660 attendees enjoyed the great weather and a walk or run around Centennial Lake,” said Judy Grusso, executive director of the society. “And best of all, we raised over $55,000 for individuals and families in Howard County who are living with autism.”

On hand to cheer the 200 race participants and 460 walkers at Centennial Park in Ellicott City were 2013 Miss Maryland winner Christina Denny, county council members Greg Fox and Courtney Watson, and State Sen. Allan Kittleman.

In addition, the event featured face painting, moon bounces, 11 exhibitors and a lightsaber battle show from the Maryland/Washington chapter of the international Star Wars costume enactor club the 501st Legion.
Annually, the event raises approximately a quarter of the funds for the society, which supports Howard County families with autism, according to Grusso.

Autism, according Grusso, is a neurological disorder that affects a person’s social interactions and verbal and nonverbal communication.

“Individuals with autism may have heightened responses to information from their senses,” said Grusso. “They may have difficulty with certain sounds, the way things look, the texture of foods or clothing against their skin.”

For information on the Howard County Autism Society, go to www.howard-autism.org or call 410-290-3466.