ATHENS - "Won't you share a piece of your heart for Autism?"

That was the question put out Sunday by Autism Hearts, a local organization that helps those affected by autism.

And a large group of at least 100 or more people answered that question in the affirmative as they showed up at the Athens High School Track for the annual walk for Autism, sponsored by Autism Hearts. The Valley Walk for Autism is in its fifth year.

The walk is designed to raise autism awareness and also to raise money. Much of the money stays local, and is used to offer grants to families affected by autism, said Danielle Gorman, who heads up the group. Her autistic son, Egan, was taking part in the walk with his siblings.

More than $6,000 was raised, but some pledges are still left to collect, according to Sandy Chamberlain, with Autism Hearts.

Gorman was encouraged by the response at the walk, and she thought it was a beneficial event for the families.

"I think it's an opportunity for parents to come out and socialize with other parents, and know they're not on their own," she commented about the camaraderie at the walk.

"I get overwhelmed when I see all the support here."

She said families can get information on services that are available.

NHS Human Services had a table at the event. Amanda Collins, a Behavioral Health Rehabilitative Services supervisor with NHS, was sharing information about NHS' autism services.

She said a stigma, unfortunately, can surround autism. She said there are options to help children suffering from autism.

Tanya Decker of Waverly, N.Y. was at the walk with family members to support her young nephew, Trenton, who suffers from autism.

His uncle Mike gave him a high-five.

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: