BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - If you drive down Highway 90 in Biloxi this week, you may notice a significant difference in the city's lighthouse. The iconic coastal landmark is going Blue for Autism Awareness Month.
"We wanted to do it locally here, as people are getting off of I-10. And it's also going to raise awareness for the event that's going on this Saturday that will raise money for Autism," volunteer lighthouse keeper Brian Margavich said.
That event is an Autism Walk that will kick off this weekend on the Biloxi Town Green. The temporary change to the Lighthouse also coincides with The Light it Up Blue Campaign. It's a worldwide initiative that promotes education and awareness about the disorder that's becoming more and more common.
"Autism has grown. It's now one in 50 children being diagnosed with autism. My daughter is autistic. My niece and nephew are also autistic. It's important that people understand this is an emotional disorder and sometimes these kids can't help outbursts, but they're sweet kids," said Peter Lee of Team Autistic Angels.
Prominent landmarks around the world will be showing their support for this global initiative and for these supporters it's great to see the coast on board.
James Pacheco recently relocated to the coast. He just so happened to be dressed in blue from head to toe, and ironically has a connection to the disorder.
"My mom's co-worker has it. I think that [the movement] is awesome. Not enough awareness is out there for kids with Autism and even adults for that matter," Pacheco said.
Twelve-year-old Zale Stratakos has an older sister who's Autistic. He says growing up, he was always blown away by his sister's ability to remember things, and her remarkable ability to draw. For him, the Blue Light Initiative is one more way to shatter misconceptions about people like his beloved sister.
"It feels really good and I hear the Sydney Opera House is lit up," Stratakos said. Most people would be stereotyping and say Autistic people are dumb, but I think they're very intelligent. She [my sister] is a great singer and I really support her. I really think this is great."
The lighthouse will stay blue for about two days and then will go back to its normal color. Registration for the Autism Walk this weekend is $12. Children 12 and under are $6, and children with Autism are free.
The group hosting the Autism walks meets in Ocean Springs on the second Friday of each month. For more information on their efforts or to register for the walk online, visit: http://teaam.org/