YORKTOWN, N.Y. – On Saturday, May 20, hundreds of walkers came out to support BluePath Service Dogs at the organization’s first annual walkathon at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights. The family-friendly fundraiser raised more than $80,000 to further BluePath’s mission of providing autism service dogs, offering safety, companionship and opportunities for independence.

According to the Autism Society, more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. It is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States, with a 119.4 percent increase in diagnoses from 2000 (1 in 150) to today (1 in 68). Walkathon attendees had the opportunity to meet the puppies of BluePath and learn more about how the nonprofit is unlocking life’s potential for children and families touched by autism.

“We are all affected in some way and connected somehow to an individual with autism,” said Tricia Zarro, BluePath’s board chair. “Those who supported BluePath’s walkathon chose to take action and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others—and we are incredibly grateful. Our family’s autism service dog has meant my son’s journey is full of more joy, more safety and more social experiences than I could have ever imagined. We want to share that joy with as many families as possible.”

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BluePath aims to significantly reduce parents’ safety concerns and help children to lead fuller lives. Reduced stress, improved sleeping routines, and more meaningful social interactions can allow families to feel a renewed sense of hope and empowerment.

“I am in awe of the incredible connection that a service dog can have with a child on the autism spectrum,” said BluePath President and CEO Jody Sandler. “These special relationships provide hope and the opportunity for the whole family to thrive. To all of the volunteers and donors supporting BluePath Service Dogs, you are the reason we can do what we do. Thank you all for walking the path with us.”