PURCHASE, NY June 7th- At the age of 9, Salvatore Giuliano already has the support of his school, family and day camp. The Dobbs Ferry boy was diagnosed with autism at 3, and about 10 of his closest friends walked the perimeter of Manhattanville College in his honor yesterday for the eighth annual autism awareness walk.
The estimated 12,000 people who converged on the campus to walk for autism awareness also heard from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the former GOP vice presidential candidate who attended the event with her sister and nephew, who has autism.
The event was organized by the Westchester-Fairfield chapter of Autism Speaks. So far just over $400,000 in donations has been recorded but the group expects to raise $1.2 million. The final amount will not be known until the end of the month. Autism is a developmental disability that affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says its prevalence is rising - 1 in every 150 American children now has the disorder. Giuliano is a student at Springhurst Elementary School and goes to Our Victory Day Camp. His mother, Patti, said she has two older children, ages 16 and 18, who, even though they're older, come to "Sal" for help with the bus schedule. "His memory is so good," she said. "My husband says he should play poker."
Westchester Community College student Maria Cappelli said she met Sal through her sister, who is a friend of Sal's sister. Now she and Sal are best friends, she said. Cappelli said she, too, goes to Sal for bus schedule information, and she echoed his mother's comments on his impeccable memory. "We hang out like all the time," Sal said of Cappelli.
Palin spoke briefly on the main stage and urged attendees to support the Combating Autism Act, which was passed in 2006 and authorizes millions in expenditures to combat the illness. She then shook hands and took pictures with officers from the Harrison Police Department in Reid Hall.