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Highlands Hospital's Race for Autism set for June 2

| Thursday, May 19, 2011

Highlands Hospital will host the annual Highlands Hospital Bud Murphy Race for Autism on June 2.

The 5-K run will begin at 7 p.m. followed by the 5-K walk at 7:01 p.m. Both events begin and end at Highlands Hospital located at 401 E. Murphy Ave., Connellsville.

Matthew Shirocky of Dickerson Run was the first to register this year.

"I always bring in my registration form as soon as I get it in the mail," said Shirocky.

He has been entering the walk portion of the yearly event since 1999 after having sustained severe injuries in a car accident in 1996. At that time he was working as a medic and did not know whetherhe would be able to walk again because of his injuries. Today he routinely walks laps inside Connellsville Wal-Mart for exercise and looks forward to competing in the race each June.

"This is how I keep motivated. I am determined to participate in every one. I haven't missed a year since I began, and I have finished every year," Shirocky said.

Karen Blocker, medical records assistant at Highlands Hospital, said some of the hospital's AFSCME volunteers have walked with Shirocky.

"We admire his dedication. He never gives up and is an inspiration and role model to everyone. He has a phenomenal outlook, and he's a very caring individual. The race seems to get bigger every year, and we're glad the community supports it," Blocker said.

Robin Bubarth, daughter of Bud Murphy, recalls the time when her dad got involved with the race.

"Dad was a big believer in our local hospital and thought it was important for our community to support it. He donated generously over the years, and his name then became a part of the tradition of the run/ walk after he died. My mom became the official race starter and would shoot the gun at the start. It has been a very worthwhile event and a great tradition for our area."

Highlands Hospital entered into a consulting agreement with Cleveland Clinic Autism Development Solutions in June 2010 for the development of a program modeled after the Lerner School at Cleveland Clinic. The local center will offer state-of-the-art educational and behavioral treatment to children from the earliest diagnosis through 22 years of age with autism in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The teaching philosophy involves the application of the principles of applied behavioral analysis in a center-based year-round educational treatment program. It will be the only year-round ABA day program for children with autism serving Southwestern Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia.

Michelle Cunningham, Highlands' CEO, said construction of the Highlands Hospital Center for Autism is scheduled to be completed by July with the opening planned for the fall. Proceeds from the race benefit the center.

Registration fee is $15, with limited registration on race day at $17. Participants may register in person at the hospital, or visit the website at www.highlandshospital.org and download the application or call 724-628-1500 to have a form mailed. Pre-registration packets will be available at the hospital for pick-up prior to the race. Plenty of refreshments will be available after the race.

DJ Ed Messenger will provide entertainment throughout the evening. Names will be drawn for random prizes and will be posted before the awards ceremony. Trophies will be awarded to the first three males and females overall, as well as the top three males and females, in 14 (5-year) age groups. At the conclusion of the awards a participant's name will be drawn to win either a one-year membership to the John P. Murtha Wellness Center or $200 cash. To be eligible for the drawings, you must have completed either the walk or run and you must be present.

Vicki Meier, director of community and professional relations at Highlands Hospital said, new this year will be an additional raffle drawing of prizes open to anyone wishing to participate.

To learn more about the new autism center or to volunteer for the race, call Meier at 724-626-2400 or e-mail at vmeier@highlandshospital.org .

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