Runners from around the state laced up their sneaks Sunday to raise money for Autism Speaks.
The Auburn chapter of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, along with sister chapters at Jacksonville State University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, held its inaugural AmaXIng Challenge to benefit children affected by the disorder.
A 5K run and one-mile walk occurred simultaneously in Auburn, Jacksonville and Hoover, with all proceeds going to Autism Speaks, the nation's largest nonprofit autism advocacy program.
"Not only are they a resource for parents, but they will tell you, research-wise, where we are headed in this direction," said Janie Marino, adviser for the Zeta Xi chapter. "We feel truly fortunate to have aligned ourselves with them nationally."
Chapter president Erin McCreary stressed the event was more about awareness than raising money.
The Challenge was successful on both fronts, however, raising more than $47,000 as of Sunday afternoon. The Auburn chapter alone raised more than $32,000.
"We had over 800 people registered online," said sorority member Brittany Henderson.
Registration was $10 per participant.
"I was really happy to see so many people here," said race winner Jeremy Winter, junior in wireless engineering.
More than 1,600 people participated statewide.
Speakers included state Sen. Ted Little and SGA president Kurt Sasser. Mayor Pro Tem Dick Phelan was also in attendance.
Sasser praised Alpha Xi Delta for not only "talking the talk, but walking the walk."
"They've identified the problem, and they're doing something about it," Sasser said.
Autism affects one in 110 children and one in 70 boys, according to the Autism Speaks website. There is no medical detection or cure for autism.
Many children and parents came to the event, which was family-friendly.
There were arts and crafts for kids, as well as a moon bounce and a face-painting station.
"It's really exciting to see the people we've touched out here," said member Kelsey Oglesby. "We love our hands-on experiences through philanthropy."
Members of Zeta Xi also work closely with The Little Tree Preschool and Storybook Farm, which cater to children with autism.
A special appearance was made by Aubie, who entertained children and posed for pictures.
Free snow cones, snacks and water bottles were provided.
There was also a silent auction, which included a limited-edition, Warhol-esque Aubie canvas print and a football autographed by Pat Dye.
Sponsors included Toomer's Drugstore, the Lee County Kiwanis Club, AuburnArt.com, Kinnucan's, J&M Bookstore and Kimbro Oil Company.
Alpha Xi Delta will have an eBay auction this week, featuring an autographed flag signed by 2009 British Open champion, Stewart Cink; a flag signed by 2007 Masters champion, Zach Johnson; and a Nike golf club signed by 1997 British Open winner, Justin Leonard. All proceeds from the auction will benefit Autism Speaks.
"We're hoping to truly turn this into an annual event," Marino said. "We will definitely be doing this again."
To learn more or to donate to Autism Speaks, visit www.stepitupauburn.com.