Joyce Marie Taylor
The 1st Annual Suwannee River Paddle for Autism in Lafayette County on Saturday, April 28 was the brainchild of Peggy Grill and Judy Allen of Mayo and for a first it was hugely successful.
Peggy's husband Martin Grill said the Center for Disease Control recently reported that autism rates appear to be increasing. Today, he said, one in 88 kids in the U.S. has autism and it strikes four times as many boys as girls. He and his wife felt there wasn't enough attention being paid to autism in their county so they, along with Allen, thought what better way to raise awareness than to have a river paddle event along the historic and majestic Suwannee River.
They partnered with Dan Sathre of Suwannee River Rendezvous and Campground, home of Convict Springs, and began planning in early January. Using e-mails, websites, newspaper and radio, folks were invited from all over Florida to come out for a fun-filled day on the river that would culminate at Suwannee River Rendezvous and Campground with raffle drawings and live entertainment.
The event began at 9 in the morning and by about 11 a.m. nearly 80 canoes and kayaks had splashed into the river at the starting point off SR 51, alongside the Hal Adams Bridge to paddle for a worthwhile cause.
Two Lafayette County Sheriff’s Deputies, Alan Ellis and Tim Smoat, were out on the river on jet skis to assure the safety of all the participants. Sheriff Brian Lamb and his young son Brannan were part of the paddling group and spent a leisurely afternoon on the river in a two-person kayak.
“It's exciting and we've done very well, so far,” said Peggy Grill, as more participants kept arriving.
Raffle tickets were sold at the sign-in desk and everyone’s eye was on the grand prize Perception Prodigy 10.0 kayak. The other raffle prizes were impressive, as well; 2 nights lodging at Suwannee River Rendezvous and Campground, a beautiful quilt handmade by JoAnn Scott and Peggy Grill, a $50 gift certificate for a guided river tour donated by Adventure Outpost in High Springs, a chocolate pearl sterling silver necklace donated by Linda Partney of Gold & Treasures, a 3 day/2 night Suwannee River canoe trip for 2 donated by Eugene and Judy Allen (Canoe Suwannee), a white pearl bracelet donated by Gayle, Zachary and David George, and a leather wallet and belt buckle donated by South Georgia Leather.
Gregory C. Valcante, Ph.D. is the director at the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) at the University of Florida. He was on hand at the event to answer questions and offer facts about current research on autism and how CARD can assist families, schools, and other organizations. These services, free of charge, are available to a 14 county area including Lafayette County and they can contact Valcante at 352-846-3458. More information about CARD can be found online at www.card.ufl.edu.
Thanks go out to all the sponsors. Gold level sponsors were First Federal Bank, Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce, Mayo Thriftway, Progress Energy, Seminole Canoe & Kayak Club, Sheriff Brian Lamb and Family, Audrey Grill and family, Alliance Dairy, and Canoe Suwannee.
Silver level sponsors were Drummond Bank, Mr. John Lewis and Mr. and Mrs. Gary Martin.
Bronze level sponsors were Lafayette State Bank, Mayo Town & Country Animal Hospital, Peggy and Martin Grill, and Edgar and Wendy Hart.
The day ended on a sweet note at Suwannee River Rendezvous and Campground with announcement of the raffle winners and entertainment featuring local talent Jessica Johnson from Mayo, followed by Nashville recording artist Mean Mary. Net proceeds of $3,052 from this event will go to CARD-UF for autism services in the Lafayette County area.
Prize winners were:
Grand Prize-Perception Prodigy 10.0 Kayak - Eric Black, Mayo
2 nights lodging at Suwannee River Rendezvous and Campground - Jeff Laws, Lady Lake
Handmade Autism Quilt - K.C. Leary, Tallahassee
$50.00 Gift Certificate for Guided River Tour , Adventure Outpost High Springs - Albert Reed, Branford
Chocolate Pearl Sterling Silver Necklace - Frank Ogborn, Archer
3 day/2 night Suwannee River canoe trip for 2 (Canoe Suwannee) - Mary Braunagel, Tallahassee
White Pearl Bracelet - Kevin Tillant, Live Oak
Leather Wallet and Belt Buckle - Adrianne Wilcox, Edgewater