The first "Show You Care, Be Aware" chalk festival was held in Azusa on April 16 at California Burgers to raise awareness of autism.

Parents of children with autism, their friends and family came to the event to show support for those with the disorder during National Autism Month.

Kelly Green, coordinator of the event, began the event as a way to introduce autism to the community.

"It's about everyone being comfortable," she said.

Green founded autismhwy.com, a social networking website aimed at connecting people living and dealing with mental disabilities.

Green said she hopes education about the disorder will help others understand her son's behavior.

She also seeks to educate the community about the many skills and talents adults and children with autism can offer their society.

Jeremy Bernstein, an 11-year-old boy with autism, was at the event selling his jewelry that he enjoys making. Other autistic children showcased their artistic talent at the chalk drawing festival.

According to Green, Bernstein is an example of a child with autism who can contribute to society if given the opportunity.

"People become so bogged down with dialogue of autism, that you stop seeing them as a real person," she said. "Our kids are very special."

B.J. Lane of Duarte, an artist who has a 20-year-old daughter with autism, was at the event to show her support.



"When a parent has a child with a disability, we are not only trying to help with the disability," she said. "We want a future for our child. We want them to have something they can have joy in and give back to society."

According to Green, people can learn from individuals with autism.

"There's no ego, no game plan. He's just so sincere," she said about her son.

Six companies throughout the United States and Canada donated chalk for the festival. Grace Lee, owner of California Burgers, offered her space at 353 E. Foothill Blvd. and gave participants more than $100 worth of coupons to the restaurant.

Green hopes to hold the event annually to bridge information to the community during autism awareness month.

Fun activities for children with autism is a newly developing concept, according to Green. Previous efforts focused on information fairs, but now there are events where kids and family can connect and not fear judgement, she said.

"The thing is we just want people to get a handle and understand that there are (other) people who are processing information differently," Green said.

"We are not all coming from the same mindset. These people need to be respected. It's not a bad difference; it's a good different," she added.

jessica.donnelly@sgvn.com

626-962-8811, ext. 2705