TURLOCK — A neighborhood here went blue Tuesday night but was feeling far from blue about spreading the word about autism.
Some 15 houses in the Festival community turned their outdoor lights blue in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. The families were taking part in the celebration by California State University, Stanislaus, sorority Alpha Xi Delta, which has partnered across the country with the group Autism Speaks. The California State University, Stanislaus, chapter has taken part in Autism Awareness Month activities each April since 2009.
In the past year, the sorority has tried to expand its efforts outside campus, holding a walk last semester and encouraging people to change their front porch light bulbs this year. Residents living on Carnival Drive were given blue bulbs to swap out with their regular bulbs for the night.
The event was celebrated worldwide in more than 90 countries. Landmarks to go blue included the Empire State Building and George Washington Bridge in New York City and Niagara Falls.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 U.S. children is diagnosed with autism. Families taking part in the event, who have autistic children of their own, said it is important to get the word out about the developmental disorder.
Turlock resident Horpencia Favila and her family took part and stay blue all year because their youngest son has autism.
"At first it was hard to be told, but we have embraced the cause," she said of her 6-year-old son's diagnosis. "I like people to become aware. It's important to be diagnosed early and have intervention. It's nice for them to do something for the community like this."
Sorority member JoEllen Reece said the Light It Up Blue event is just part of her group's support this year. Earlier Tuesday, they handed out autism awareness ribbons in the community; on April 19, they are holding a benefit concert at Turlock's Grizzly Rock Cafe.
"We just wanted to do something more with the community, in the past just done events with the school," Reece said. "But we wanted to get the town involved, too. We wanted to help join these families and show support for them."