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Creating awareness for kids with autism

The Hibbing Daily Tribune - 1/23/2018

VIRGINIA - Team Different Not Less doesn't just meet during the annual Walking for Autism Northland in Duluth, although that is why they have a team name. This group of Iron Rangers affected by autism reaches out to support each other and the community all year round.

Jess Lindberg and her mother, Carrie Salo, are advocates for those affected by autism and assets to the community. The two were abruptly introduced to the world of autism with the diagnosis of Lindberg's son and decided to form the group.

"He was born premature," explained Lindberg. "Through testing we later learned that he has autism." Lindberg said she didn't know anything about autism and found finding support on the Iron Range difficult. She didn't know any other parents and many people didn't fully understand autism.

"We realized that awareness needed to be raised for autism in our area so we started the group," said Lindberg looking at Salo.

As a single mother, Lindberg has leaned on her mother. Together, the two work to navigate the autism spectrum while providing support to others in the area.

"We thought we were the only ones affected by autism in our area," said Salo, "but we aren't. Many people on the Iron Range are affected by this and we want them to know where help and support are available."

The team was official formed to participate in the fundraising walk, Walking for Autism Northland. During its first year, 2016, the group raised $600. In 2017, the group raised $1,200 which was donated to Roosevelt Elementary and Virginia High School Special Education Departments. In 2018, the group has already raised $3,000 with a goal of $4,000. Their focus this year is Parkview Elementary'sSpecial Education Department and the Early Childhood Special Education Department. Any school can request donations from the group.

"Although our main goal is to raise money and awareness for autism," explained Lindberg, "we are also here to support each other and form relationships. I love being able to get my son involved with other children who are like him."

For those who find themselves on the autism spectrum, learning social and emotional skills can be difficult and Lindberg is excited that she can expose her son to true peers who will possibly grow to support each other.

"They are different, not less," Lindberg stated. Even if that isn't the outcome, Lindberg and Salo enjoy the support time they have with the other adults in the group.

"We get together every few months and do an activity or just have fun together," said Salo.

Although the team's main event is the annual walk, they do other fundraising activities throughout the year. They have run the Dog House at Super One in the past. This year, they will be fundraising through Schwan's. When placing an online order, the group can be found under "Find A Campaign" or searching their ID 36466. Over the next 45 days, 20 percent of order costs will go to the group.

The group is also currently selling coupon books for Herberger's Community Days. The booklet is sold for five dollars, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the group. The Community Days sale will be March 1-3 with booklets available for purchase from now until then.

On March 14, the group will be holding a fundraiser through Papa Murphy's.

"Come and get involved," said Salo. "The more the merrier."

The 2018 Autism Walk Northland will be held at Hermantown High School indoor track on April 22. The fundraising walk is put on by the Autism Association of Northern Minnesota. For more information on the walk, visit their website

A parent's support group for those who have children with autism will be held at 6 p.m.Jan. 25 at the Messiah Lutheran Church in Mountain Iron. This will be the group's first meeting and plans for future gatherings will be made.

If you would like to contact or join Team Different Not Less they can be emailed at They also host a public Facebook Group under the same name.


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