MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Dan Marino returned to his old stomping grounds for a yearly tradition — hosting an event for autism awareness.
The football legend addressed an enthusiastic crowd at Hard Rock Stadium, Saturday.
“We’re gonna cut the ribbon, and we’re gonna walk and it’s not gonna rain,” he said, “so enjoy yourselves, have a great day. We’re gonna have a lot of fun.”
Fun, that is, for a good cause. Thousands of people came together to take part in the eighth annual Dan Marino Foundation WalkAbout Autism Event and Expo.
“The thing here is that we bring the community together, here in South Florida — all the families that have been affected with autism and with developmental disabilities — to be a part of this day,” said Marino.
Year after year, the autism walk continues to be rewarding for everyone involved.
“Its our eighth annual. We have raised close to $4 million over these eight years, and everything stays in the community,” said Marino.
Several influential members of the community were on hand for the event and got in on the fun.
“On behalf of the School Board of Miami-Dade, I’m here with Dr. Larry Feldman, a school board member,” said Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “We support the Dan Marino Foundation, we support Dan Marino and Claire Marino and this wonderful organization.”
From today’s leaders to the next generation, everyone who participated came with one goal in mind: to make a difference.
“We left Orlando because Ryan wasn’t talking, and we came out here and we went to the Dan Marino Center at 3 years old,” said Ralphie Salas, whose son Ryan is on the autism spectrum. “Now he can’t stop talking, so it’s a great story. We took a chance, we gave up everything just for Ryan, and it’s so worth it.”
Marino gave credit to all the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes every day.
“They’ve affected their lives in a positive way and made a difference,” he said. “That makes you feel great.”
Of course, with all the fun comes plenty of much-needed fundraising. The event featured sponsored giveaways, as well as picture opportunities, interactions and autograph signings with current and former Dolphins players, and the Dolphins Cheerleaders.
“It’s an awareness, it’s a fun event, it’s a fun event for the community, for the kids, for the families,” said Marino. “That’s really what makes it cool, and a great day.”
The goal for this year’s WalkAbout, $500,000, was about 80 percent met as of Saturday night, according to the Dan Marino Foundation’s website.
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