08ShineAs the sun sets over Fayetteville on Saturday, March 31, the streets around Festival Park will be filled with the illumination of the Shine Your Light 5K winding its way through downtown. The 5K run/walk is to benefit ShineLight, a local organization that provides valuable support and services to individuals who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 68 children have ASD. ShineLight was founded in 2006 by Nikki Creecy to help those individuals in the southeastern part of North Carolina find stability and normalcy in life. According to the organization’s website, ShineLight seeks to “provide a wellness environment for individuals with Autism through radiating dedication, purpose and devotion in our daily service.”

Creecy said her passion for helping those who have been diagnosed with ASD developed when she was in college at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“I graduated with my bachelor’s in psychology from UNC and worked with the Autism Society of North Carolina for six or seven years,” she said. “Working with that population inspired me to do more.” ShineLight was born out of that desire to do more.

Now, ShineLight offers housing as well as community and job support to those who have ASD. The organization has two residences in its small community – an adolescent home and an adult home – and offers a variety of assisted living services to people in need across southeastern North Carolina.

“We cover a lot of ground,” Creecy said. “Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson, Harnett and more. We have a large service area.”

With such a large service area and intensive services being offered, Creecy and her team have organized the Shine Your Light 5K to benefit those who depend on ShineLight’s services. According to Creecy, “The race is about raising awareness in the Fayetteville community about what we do as well as raising awareness about Autism in general. We also have things we would like to do for our residents that we just don’t have the funds for right now.” One hundred percent of the money raised by the event will go toward helping ShineLight provide those services and experiences.

Participants in the run/walk can expect medals for the top overall finishers as well as the top finishers in each age bracket. All finishers will receive a medal. The first 300 people to pre-register will be guaranteed a T-shirt. There will be additional T-shirts available on-site.

The evening will conclude with a glow-in-the-dark party in Festival Park, complete with a DJ, a rock-climbing wall courtesy of The Climbing Place, food and more. The event is family-friendly. Children and strollers are welcome, but event organizers ask that the only animals on the course are service animals.

Visit www.shine-light.org for more on the mission and work of ShineLight. For specific questions concerning Shine Your Light 5K registration or volunteer opportunities with the organization, contact the ShineLight corporate offices at 910-323- 1335 or by email at info@shine-light.org.

The Shine Your Light 5K is scheduled for March 31 at Festival Park in downtown Fayetteville. Participants can pre-register online at www.active.com. Additionally, race-day registration will run from 3:30-4:30 p.m. on-site. The event kicks off at 4:30 p.m. with welcoming remarks, and the race begins promptly at 5:30 p.m.

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