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Friends, families walk to raise

'Until the Pieces Fit.'

Romans walked up and down Broad Street at mid-day Saturday for autism, a condition that is impacting a growing number of children and families. Erica Quinn, who has a 12-year-old son with the disorder, said the incidence of the disorder has increased from one case in every 150 births to approximately one in almost 65.

"It's a different learning thing. You just have to be able to learn your child and their behavior. It's still your child, so you just do what you've got to do," Quinn said.

The event was hosted by the Parents of Autistic Children of Northwest Georgia. Stacey Youman, one of the coordinators for the event, said she hopes the walk will help stop the stigma that is often associated with autism.

"By getting people out here to show their support, it lets the children and the families know that they do have support."

Funds raised by the walk are used to help kids go to summer camp.

"Kids on the spectrum need to stay in a routine and we want to make their summers a lot easier, so this is why we're doing the walk," Youman said.

Youman said that one reason the number of cases has increased dramatically involves more studies and increased awareness on the part of doctors — and the community — who are better able to look at signs and try to figure out why these kids are non-verbal.

There are many different forms of autism and Youman said more help than ever before is now available for the kids.

To build on that, Quinn said she wanted to be a part of the walk with her son riding a float, to get the word out.

"It's still kind of new. This lets everyone know that autism is a diagnosis (and) helps them learn about it," said Quinn.

Sherry Jenkins, another coordinator for the walk Saturday, said walkers carried signs with a piece of a puzzle attached to the end.

"Puzzle pieces are a symbol for autism and it's basically the slogan, 'Until the Pieces Fit.' People with autism are just different, they think differently, their processing is different. It's just an acceptance of understanding and realizing that they are people just like you and I. They're just different," Jenkins said.

The walk started from the Town Green, came out Third Avenue past the Mitchell Plaza fountain and turned right on Broad Street for a block before turning around and back up Broad Street for several blocks before ending for lunch at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

Tucker walks her 15,000th mile
• After being diagnosed with diabetes almost 24 years ago, she began her journey back to health.

Gaynell Tucker

The sound of cheers and applause echoed from the Belk end of Mount Berry Mall on Saturday morning as Gaynell Tucker, 88, completed her 15,000th mile of walking since being diagnosed with diabetes in 1995. Close to two dozen family and friends met Tucker and her husband, the Rev. Max Tucker, at the mall Saturday to walk a little over a mile before staging their celebration in the food court.

Gaynell said that after she was diagnosed with diabetes almost 24 years ago, "I was devastated." Her doctor sent her to a special treatment center to learn more about the disease.

"I learned that walking would do wonders to help control diabetes," Gaynell said. "I started my walking routine immediately."

Her physician originally prescribed GLYNASE PresTab for Tucker, a sulfonylurea, but within a month of starting her daily walking routine she was able to stop taking the medication.

Tucker started out in her neighborhood walking a mile a day, and in less than a year had worked her way up to 3 miles a day.

"I walked outside on most days, or inside when it was raining," she explained.

It was not unusual for her husband to walk with her, but during Saturday' s benchmark walk at the mall, the preacher confessed with a laugh that he had probably only walked a third of the distance his wife had logged.

Gaynell said that over the years there have been times that she was unable to make her daily walk.

There was a bout with breast cancer that required surgery, there were deaths in the family and other events that often interfered with her routine, to the point that she is back taking metformin and glimepiride, but she has never fully quit her walking.

Controlling high blood sugar helps prevent kidney damage, blindness and nerve problems, and stimulates the proper flow of blood throughout the body. Appropriate control of diabetes may also lessen the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Over the years she has managed to lose more than 60 pounds.

"I have been able to keep my blood sugar low enough to avoid having to take insulin," Gaynell said.

Saturday morning, Gaynell said the reading on her glucometer indicated that her hemoglobin A1C, a long-term measure of her blood sugars, was 6.5, which is right at the low end for a person diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Tucker is in her 76th booklet in which she has faithfully kept up with the blood sugar counts on a daily basis.

"I continue to take my medication, keep my weight down and watch my diet. By the help of God, I will keep on walking," she said.

Bowles' buffalo have new king of the herd
• The bison farmer headed far, far north to bring back a nearly pure-bred woods bison.

Alan Bowles

There's a new king of the herd roaming Alan Bowles' pastures not too far off the Coosa River west of Rome.

Bowles, who has been a bison farmer for nearly 30 years, is anxious to see how his new 1,600-pound Canada woods bison bull is going to get along with the buffalo cows in his herd during the upcoming breeding season.

He traveled all the way to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, to acquire the new bull last fall. The bison is demonstrably larger than the other buffalo in the herd. Jokingly, Bowles said it nearly took 1,600 pounds of paperwork to bring the buffalo back into the U.S. Canada does not permit purebred woods buffalo from being taken out of the country, so the big boy who now calls Coosa home is only seven-eighths woods buffalo, with just a smidgen of the traditional plains buffalo in his blood.

As Bowles' herd has grown over the years, he has acquired more of the hybrid animals as opposed to purebred plains bison.

The difference between the two are plains bison have very large heads with short noses and well defined shaggy capes that cover the upper portion of their bodies. On the other hand, the woods bison have much larger shoulder humps that are somewhat forward of their front feet and very thick chaps, hair hanging off the front of their heads and the front of the forward legs.

It's getting to be an exciting time for Bowles as he expects a number of his cows to drop calves over the course of the next several weeks. He's been a little nervous about the impending deliveries, saying it has been one of the toughest winters in years on his herd.

All of the winter rains kept much of his pastures under water for weeks at a time and the buffalo gobbled up grass on higher land. As a result, some of the cows are a little lighter than they have been in years gone by.

He's hoping that their weight will not result in any problems calving during the coming weeks.

Bowles sells some of his stock to other breeders across the Southeast or farmers who just want to have a bison or two, but does occasionally slaughter one of the animals for meat.


Today's artwork is by Amelia Abernathy, a second-grader at Model Elementary School.