More than 500 people laced up their boots and trainers to take part in a charity walk on Wearside today.
The North East Autism Society’s annual Walk for Autism today in Herrington Country Park in Sunderland.
Opened by gold-medal winning swimmer Lyndon Longhorne, the event was part of the North East’s leading autism service provider’s Going for Gold campaign.
With a bigger crowd than ever before, hundreds turned out in gold face paint, costumes and t-shirts to spread a message not just of awareness - but also autism acceptance.
Society chief executive officer John Phillipson said: “This was our best Walk for Autism so far. Not only did more people than ever before turn out but the message of Going for Gold for Autism Acceptance has really resonated with people.
“I loved seeing so many people get into the spirit of things today, but most importantly I love that for all those taking part today who are autistic, they will have entered into a carnival atmosphere where there was no talk of anything negative - only a celebration of who they are and all they bring to our region.
"We’re hugely grateful to our sponsors, to our volunteers and to Lyndon for taking time out of his Paralympic training to be with us.
"His challenges aren’t the same as those faced by autistic children, young people and adults but he does know what it’s like to navigate a world that wasn’t designed with him in mind - and he does it in such a way you can’t help but be inspired. “
The event comes at the end of week two of World Autism Awareness Month.
Choosing to rebrand the month to Autism Acceptance, the society has seen more than 30 schools, 20 businesses, politicians, TV personalities and most importantly hundreds of North East families back its drive to change the narrative on autism and neurodiveristy.
Ten north-east landmarks were also illuminated in gold in support of the campaign.
Today walkers were treated to baby shark dances, fancy dress competitions, a toddler track, egg rolling, an info tent, food trucks, face-painting, a live DJ and more.
All those completing the one-mile route received a creme egg and a Going for Gold certificate.
Any proceeds raised will go to funding free lifeline services such as parent workshops and toddler groups.
Lyndon added: "It was my pleasure to be here today supporting the North East Autism Society.
"I got involved at Christmas with the Jolly Jumper campaign and we've stayed in touch. If me being here can inspire someone then it's been worth it."