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Pacing for Pieces runners help raise money for autism center

Florence Morning News - 3/13/2017

FLORENCE, S.C. ? Over 480 runners laced up their sneakers on Saturday at the Salvation Army on Hoffmeyer Road in support All 4 Autism.

The local advocacy group is geared toward increasing awareness, resources and support for people with autism.

The organization hosted "Pacing for Pieces," a half-marathon, 5k and a kids' dash. After the races, visitors moved from the finish line to Palmetto Peddlers for an after party that included plenty of food, live music from Tastes Like Chicken and family-friendly games.

The race was first organized five years ago by All 4 Autism's outreach coordinator, Amy Pennington.

"My son was diagnosed with autism back in 2009 and I wanted to do something for the community," said Pennington. "And I love to run; that's my stress reliever. I decided to mix both of my passions together. With running and my love for my son, I just knew that this was meant to be."

Proceeds from the event go toward opening a resource center for families who have loved one with autism. Pennington says the closest available centers are in Charleston or Columbia.

"Once you get that diagnosis, your whole life stops," she said. "So we want to be able to make something a little easier for these families. They'll come to us and we'll let them know what's available and walk them through, step by step, what they can do to help their individual."

Pennington estimated the event raised around $36,000 last year for the organization. She say's this year's goal is even higher.

"We want to surpass that," she said. "Our goal is $40,000 and if we reach that, we'll be able to open the doors, hopefully within the next couples months so that's very exciting."

Shannan Banning will be one of those using the facility when it opens. Her daughter, Lena Wrenn, has autism. Banning was running the 5k with a group of friends in honor of her daughter.

Banning is looking forward to having a resource center nearby, instead of having to travel to Charleston. She says often times her daughter, who is also epileptic, will have seizures during the long ride to the Charleston center, and it takes her days to recover after the trip.

As a first-time runner in the "Pacing for Pieces" 5k, Banning was surprised by the huge turnout.

"I was really overwhelmed when I got out here," said Banning. "It's just really amazing that the community came out to support this cause and the autism center."


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