Mateo Vega
Mateo Vega (Submitted)

When Jennifer Hisey and her son Mateo Vega left the store last weekend, he had an idea.

After seeing a sign for this year's Autism Expo & Walk for Autism, Mateo said that he wanted to make a team and walk.

But the event is on the day his mom was planning on having his 12th birthday party, she said.

"And he's like, 'I don't need to have a party. I'd rather have the Walk for Autism,'" Hisey said. She was taken aback.

The Shrewsbury Elementary sixth-grader explained he has two classmates who have autism and that he wants to help them out.

"I thought it'd be interesting to do something for the people with autism," Mateo said. "It sounds fun."

Wacky Walkers: So the two went home to do some research.

They went online, got some information and sat down to come up with a team name, settling on Mateo's Wacky Walkers, Hisey said. The team will wear crazy outfits during the walk.

"Mateo has a very clownish-type personality," she said. "He's one of those kids who likes to make people laugh."

The team raised about $100 in less than a week and has set a $1,000 fundraising goal for the walk on Saturday.

It was a "warm-your-heart" moment for Hisey, who said she's proud of her son for thinking of others.

"It doesn't surprise me that he would make a decision like that because that's the type of person that he is," she said.

As for Mateo, he's just trying to find more people to have fun with him.

"I would love both if people could walk with me and donate — that would be great," he said.

The walk: The event is Autism York's one annual fundraiser, said Nikki Johnson, president of the nonprofit and chairwoman of the walk.

Autism York serves York County and some surrounding counties, and all the money raised goes back into the community in the form of speaker events, a lending library, support groups and social events, she said.

"All of our money stays local," Johnson said.

This year marks the ninth year for the expo and the fifth year for the walk.

The event will feature close to 50 vendors, which are all autism-related in some way, she said. Services from speech therapy to dentists to comic books will be at the expo, Johnson said.

So far, 77 teams are registered for the walk, and they've already raised $30,000, she said.

Although money raised allows Autism York to give back, there is no fee to walk in the event, Johnson said.

"It's all about awareness, and it's about people accepting those with autism and learning more about it — and that's the most important part," she said.

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.