SRU’s Autism Month closes with April 23 TRAILS walk/run


college students walking horse saddled with child

The April 23 “TRAILS 5K Run and 3K Walk” will raise funds to continue horseback riding and other programs at SRU’s Storm Harbor Equestrian Center for individuals on the autism spectrum.

April 12, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa.- Slippery Rock University students, faculty, staff and community residents are invited to participate in a "TRAILS 5K Run and 3K Walk" April 23 to raise support for programs serving individuals on the autism spectrum.

The event will take place from 8 a.m. to noon at SRU's Storm Harbor Equestrian Center and is the final event of SRU's April Autism Awareness Month program.

A $20 preregistration fee ( is available until April 10 and will include a runner bag with freebees, a T-shirt and tickets for door prizes. After April 10, registration is $25. Organizers said they hope 200 people will participate. Pre-registration is not required.

Runners and walkers will help SRU's TRAILS (Therapeutic Recreation: Accessing Independent Leisure and Social Skills) program continue services. Recreational therapy majors, supervised by faculty, provide recreational therapy activities such as horseback riding, aquatics, gardening and bowling to help those on the autism spectrum build social and fitness skills.

Amanda Zucchero, a recreational therapy major from McDonald, said she acquired a heart for those on the spectrum when taking the class "Recreation Therapy Services," taught by Betsy Kemeny, assistant professor of recreational therapy. Kemeny manages many or the programs offered to those with autism.

"The class gave me a first-hand experience with a young man with autism," Zucchero said. "I learned so much by working with him, and I was able to apply the knowledge that I learned in the classroom to a real person."

She said the fundraiser has also been an applied learning experience for the class "Organization and Management."

"We have been learning about how to put on a fundraiser, including risk management, budgeting, operations and team work," she said.

Christine Savides, a recreational therapy major from Greenfield, Indiana, said she would be riding one of Storm Harbor's horses, stationing herself on the outdoor trail to direct runners and walkers.

"This year's TRAILS 5K is going to be incredible," she said. "Teams have been formed to collect donations, enlist sponsors and advertise."

Savides said the TRAILS program itself opened her eyes to the value of recreational therapy.

"Without TRAILS, who knows if I would have found that passion so early on in my college career?" she said. "I am now a peer leader for four programs at the equestrian center and volunteer at least 15 hours a week. I look forward to seeing all of our hard work come together for this event."

The Recreational Therapy Club at SRU and Autism Speaks U at SRU are co-sponsoring the TRAILS event.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |