COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – For the 15th year, the Autism Speaks Walk was back in Columbus Sunday. The event kicked off at 9 a.m. with the national anthem sung by Sam Will, who is on the spectrum, and a whisper countdown.

The annual event sponsored by NBC4 gives parents access to resources and a chance to come together to learn, encourage, and just be in a safe space.

“I always like the fact you don’t have to apologize out here, you don’t have to be sorry, it’s she’s fine, she’s fine,” said one parent.

Autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in every 44 children, according to the CDC. With the number increasing, many parents are learning how to live with it.

“We’re still in the very beginning of ours, there have been a lot of tears shed it’s been a lot but just keep on,” said Caitlin Pettis, whose son was diagnosed in the past year.

NBC4 anchor and sports director Jerod Smalley emceed the event. Smalley has worked with this organization for years. He says seeing so many more resources become available is rewarding.

“In order for people to be successful and navigate the things you have to navigate, with education and therapy, and aren’t very fun to talk about,” said Smalley, “that’s a part of what makes this event so good.”

The walk also featured a festival ahead of time. Organizations that provide families with resources were out to offer help. Other organizations offered sensory activities. The fundraiser had a goal of $320,000. So far, they’ve raised more than $245,000.

For information on Autism Speaks, click here.