A NORTH-EAST park was awash with gold today as hundreds of people stepped out for a charity's annual walk to promote acceptance of autism.

Almost 300 people took part in the annual event, which is held every April as part of the North East Autism Society's month-long calendar of events to mark Autism Acceptance Month.

As well as completing the one-mile route around the park, families also took part in a warm-up led by staff from Everyone Active’s Hetton Community Pool & Wellness Centre, enjoyed a visit from the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and had their photographs taken with the North East Autism Society (NEAS) mascot Snowdrop the Spikeshuffler.

“The Walk for Acceptance is always our biggest event of the year and today was no different,” said Jon Appleton, Community and Events Fundraising Officer at NEAS.

“It’s always brilliant to see so many people stepping out in support of the work that NEAS does and helping to champion our message of autism acceptance.”

The charity was also supported by volunteers from Nissan, Darlington Building Society, Newcastle Building Society and LM Global Telecoms. While Tesco Extra Sunderland supported the event by providing free fruit and water to those who took part.

Former Tyne Tees Television newsreader Pam Royle, who joined the Chester-le-Street-based charity as a patron last year, once again opened the walk alongside Chief Executive Officer John Phillipson.

The pair were also joined by NEAS’s outgoing Chair of Trustees Gavin Bestford, who is stepping down from his role with the charity after two decades at the end of this month.

Before the walk got underway, Mr Bestford delivered a moving speech in which he described the charity’s growth over the past two decades. He said: “I am really proud of this charity and I know those that I am handing over to will take it forward.

“Thank you for coming today and helping to support the cause, and get more understanding, awareness and acceptance for autistic individuals.”

Following the success of today’s walk, the charity is now gearing up for its annual Acceptance Matters Conference which is set to take place on Friday, May 26.

Held virtually via Zoom, the conference features a panel of autistic speakers who will deliver talks on a range of topics, including gender and identity, navigating the education system, and helping autistic young people to develop a positive autistic identity.

  • For more information about the Acceptance Matters conference, or to find out more about the charity’s upcoming events, visit www.ne-as.org.uk.