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Chicago motorcycle run brings autism awareness to Shorewood, Southwest suburbs

Courtney Choate said it was amazing to cruise in support of people with autism.

“I love seeing the people pop out of their houses to see what’s going on,” the Marengo resident said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Choate was one of more than 900 motorcycle riders who took part in the Ride for Autism Speaks Chicago Sunday. She has a brother who was diagnosed with autism and said riding in the motorcycle run is special to her.

“The main thing is to make people aware of [autism],” she said. “We are supporting him, but we’re also bringing awareness to it.”

Keith McCormick, executive director for the Chicago chapter of Ride for Autism Speaks, said it’s nice seeing how the event has grown in popularity over the years.

“In the past 14 years, it’s grown from a few hundred [riders] to almost a few thousand,” he said.

Ride for Autism Speaks Chicago raised about $60,000 last year, and McCormick said the group is looking to “blow that goal out of the water” this time around.

Alison Hargadine, of Romeoville, said she enjoyed taking part in the motorcycle run. This year was her second time riding in support of the Ride for Autism Speaks Chicago organization.

“I enjoyed the camaraderie,” she said. “I enjoyed the ability to meet other people and see other types of bikes… we’re all coming together for one purpose, even though we’re all different types of people.”

Although Ride for Autism Speaks organizations are located throughout the country, there are still people who aren’t aware of what the organization does. The hope, according to McCormick, is that the annual motorcycle will change that fact.

“We’re just trying to make a difference to people who are impacted by autism,” he added. “We want people to feel like they’re part of a larger community.”

This year is the Chicago-based chapter’s 14th year raising funds and awareness for autism. McCormick said bringing the event to the suburbs has had a huge impact on the event’s success.

“It’s really important for us to be in the south and southwest suburbs,” he said. “Seeing 2,000 motorcycles go down the road, everybody’s going to stop and go, ‘whoa, what is that?’ It’s loud and it’s a great group, and they’re so welcoming.

“It’s just a great opportunity for us to get out there and spread our message.”

Autism Speaks Chicago is a nonprofit organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy and growing awareness.

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