TOWNSEND — This Saturday at Heritage Park in Townsend, over 120 runners will gather for the Many Abilities Fun Run put on by Big Sky Autism Project. The event includes a 1k, 5k, festival, and even a virtual event for those who cannot attend in person.
The run is inclusive of all abilities. Monique Prevel, executive director, founder, and lead coach of Big Sky Autism Project says there are participants who will be running, walking, and rolling. The event is not timed, and there are other activities at the event available for everyone.
“We have closed Broadway, and we have made it so all of our activities are able to be done by anyone that wants to do them whether they have a developmental disability or not,” Prevel said.
Available at Heritage Park will be vendors, pizza and ice cream, and raffles. Since Broadway Street will be closed, several businesses will be having sales that day for the event.
Though the event hasn’t even started yet, Prevel is already proud.
“It's already a successful event. We have, like I said, 120 pre registered racers, runners, walkers, rollers. We have over 18 vendors and activities coming. The overwhelming response from communities around Montana… we have had several communities ask us when we're coming to do this in their town. And we chose Townsend because it's our home base operations. And this is our first major event. And, you know, April is autism awareness and acceptance month and we felt regardless of what the weather is that we needed to have this event in April in Townsend at least just for this first year,” she said.
One-hundred percent of the money for race entries, t-shirts, ice cream, pizza, and donations goes back into the non-profit. They are currently working on finding adaptive fitness coaches for all the major cities in Montana.
Big Sky Autism Project works with people who are neurodivergent on progress and regress exercises that translate into daily living.
Prevel started Big Sky Autism Project because of her son who is nonverbal autistic. She went and got trained by Eric Chessen, who developed autism fitness, and got certified. She is the only person in Montana to be certified through his program, and there are only 350 people with the certification worldwide.
“So I thought, You know what better way to help not only my son, but this community by offering a service that isn't here. And that can do so much for them as far as helping them to develop the strength and stability and endurance to be able to do everyday tasks. And it also allows them to release energy that gets pent up and causes issues when they can't, you know, find an outlet for it,” Prevel said.
Prevel expanded on why raising awareness for people who are autistic and neurodivergent is so important.
“It's important to raise awareness for Neurodiversity and autism because it's becoming more and more commonplace in society. The latest numbers from the CDC are one in 44 children, ages eight and over, have been diagnosed. In 2020, they released a report that stated 2.21% of American adults are autistic. And that doesn't sound like a lot, but it's actually over 5 million people. So the autism and neurodiversity is here. And whenever you see someone acting a little strange to like society standards, you know, you need to think for a minute and be aware that they might be autistic or neurodivergent,” she said.
Sign up for Saturday’s race here.