Advocates for Autism celebrate autumn, raise awareness at fall festival

UT students, faculty and the Knoxville community participated in the AFA Fall Festival Friday, Oct. 13.

Randall Billings//Creative Commons

The Advocates for Autism held their first annual Fall Festival at the University of Tennessee to celebrate the autumn season and raise awareness for autism on Friday, Oct. 13.

The event included activities such as pumpkin painting, square dancing, a s’mores station, live animals and a bake sale. The AFA invited UT students, faculty and members of the Knoxville to attend.

“Last year, AFA had a bake sale in order to raise funds for our community partner, Autism Site Knoxville,” Vice President Ciara Westbrook said. “We wanted this fundraiser to grow and have more of our members and community involved in order to bring more awareness to UT’s campus and more funds for individuals on the autism spectrum. The turnout was great and we are looking to expand even more next year!”

UT students invited their friends to attend. Courtney Beck, a sophomore at UT, attended on the invitation of her roommate.

Other students traveling to and from classes stopped by to pet the animals and grab some apple cider and baked treats. Some stopped to paint small pumpkins with unique designs.

The square-dancing led by Ron Schneider turned out to be a big hit for the students who participated.

“I really loved the dancing. This was the second time I have square-danced and it was literally so much fun,” UT student Kinzee Clark said. “I didn’t expect anybody to do it, and I was just really excited that people were actually dancing.”

Others like UT junior Maggie Fisher also enjoyed the dancing.

“It brought back memories for me of past experiences,” Fisher said.

Organizers enjoyed their events as well, both for the fun and for the benefit to the community.

“My favorite part of the Fall Fest was definitely seeing the children with autism interact with the animals at the petting farm and watching them enjoy themselves as they square danced,” said Westbrook. “It was great to know that with the help of our members and our community, we could bring a smile on their faces. It’s also important that the autism community knows that they do have support and we are here to advocate for them.”

AFA’s four key pillars are to include, inform, collaborate and celebrate in every event they host.

For more information on Advocates for Autism and their events, check out their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages by searching @afautk or visit

Featured Image by Randall Billings, courtesy of Creative Commons

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo and Lexie Little

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