Bucks’ Jennings joined families in fifth annual Autism Speaks walk

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Thousands came out to support Autism Speaks, as the organization put on its fifth annual walk to support autism awareness.

A recent survey showed one in 50 U.S. schoolchildren has been diagnosed with autism.

Additionally, April is Autism Awareness Month.

Inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Saturday, April 6th, the crowd was pumped up as Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings joined families for the Autism Speaks walk.

"To be here this morning to support the walk for autism and awareness is something I love to do," Jennings said.

The walk was meant to raise money and awareness in the fight against autism.

"Autism Speaks is one of largest private funders of autism research worldwide -- looking for detection for autism as well as a cure and treatments as well and Autism Speaks also provides family support kits," Melissa Reed with Autism Speaks said.

Reed, the walk's chair, says the complex health diagnosis is becoming an epidemic. Autism is described as a condition where people have trouble communicating and forming relationships.

"It's an autism spectrum disorder so there are people who can be very high functioning up to those people who are non-verbal and need full assistance and everything in between. One out of every 88 children receives an autism diagnosis," Reed said.

To help change that statistic, walkers laced up and hit the concourse -- each team with a specific amount of money raised.

"It means a lot that the community comes out and supports us," Reed said.

Helping the cause is vital for Teresa Cluka and her six-year-old son Drew.

"We have a lot of therapy that goes on at our house. We have 32 hours of speech, physical and occupational therapy. We also have ABA therapy that goes on," Cluka said.

Many children dealing with the disorder like Cluka are vibrant and full of energy and each penny raised helps these children to continue to live life to the fullest.

"It will absolutely make a different in these children's lives," Reed said.