ROSELLE, NJ - Area families and supporters raised thousands of dollars on Saturday for a cause near and dear to many. Local residents walked through the borough to promote awareness and improve the outcome of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The 4th annual “Walk for a Difference” helped educate and support the community where awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is so badly needed.

“It’s overwhelming when you find out that your child has special needs,” Mayor Christine Dansereau said while walking toward the festivities at L.V. Moore Middle School.

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One out of every 41 New Jersey children has autism. It is one of the highest rates of states evaluated in 2012, the CDC reports – and that’s a 12 percent increase from the 1 in 45 rate released two years ago. It’s far more common in boys than in girls.

“Many of our students have autism,” said participant Anita Vogel, an evaluator on the school’s child study team who has a family member "on the autism spectrum."

Parents were advised to be proactive and reach out to organizations like Parents Of Autistic Children of New Jersey (POAC) where they can join with other families and avoid feeling isolated.

“All of our children are special…unique,” said parent, Marshell Jennings, team captain of the top fund-raising team. “The more programs for them, the better. The better they are with society, the better they are with their friends, and then they can grow up and work and learn to be independent.”

This years top fundraising team was Team Ryan Jackson and the top student fundraiser was Rafaelli Rodriguez. 

“The event raised about $4,000 for POAC,” said teacher and coordinator LaTia Pope.

Other supporters present included Council President Kim Shaw, Councilwoman Carla Walker, and State Assemblyman Jamel Holley.

POAC provides free recreational events and support services to children with ASD and their families, plus free training and education for parents, educators, police and other first responders.

Those wishing to donate to P.O.A.C. can visit