This week, staff writer Laura Rysz talks with Lindsay Dragon about the Trunk-or-Treat supporting Autism Awareness NEPA, which raises money for local autism programs.

Residence: Shavertown

Educational /professional background: A mother of a child with autism, she works at the Autism Center at Misericordia University and has served on the Autism Awareness NEPA Fundraising Committee for the last four years; she has created multiple programs for people with autism and support groups for parents.

Title: Fundraising committee member

Q: What inspired this event?

A. Our 13th annual 5K/Walk and Autism Resource Fair was scheduled for April and was canceled. After we tried to postpone the event, we had to rethink things all together. So we put our heads together and brainstormed to find a way to have an event and be safe during these unprecedented times. A drive-through trunk-or-treat was our best and safest option, so we went with it.

Q: How will the fundraiser work?

A. Families are able to attend for free. We have 500 treaters already registered and a growing wait list. After a family registers its treater(s), it receives confirmation that it either got its ticket via email or is now being put on the wait list.Any person coming will have to wear a face mask, gaiter or face shield. Tickets can be scanned, so there is no direct contact.Families are not permitted to leave their cars. Trunkers are encouraged to find creative ways of handing out candy with no direct contact to the treaters. Gloves must be worn by any person handing candy out. We are providing trunkers with 6-foot carpet tubing for their use if they choose. We’re not just marketing this as a safe event; we will be monitoring it as well. Our volunteers are charged with helping keep our littles safe and making this event a success.

Trunkers pay a $25 registration fee that will help pay for traffic control through the Wilkes-Barre constables. Any funds left will go toward grants we give to the community. Our goal is 100 trunkers, and right now we have about 34. (They currently have 42 trunkers as of 10/19) The deadline for trunkers (to register) is Wednesday, Oct. 28, and they must be able to provide giveaways for 500 treaters. Giveaways can be candy, promo items, marketing materials, etc. If we reach our goal of 100 trunkers, we can take kids off the waitlist and create two routes. Halloween is not canceled this year. We can do it safely and still have a great time while raising autism awareness to boot.

Q: Will there be entertainment?

A. We will have as many decorations as we can, but we also don’t want to take away from the trunkers. Burn the Jukebox will be performing. The band is made up of 12- and 13-year-olds, and they will play Halloween songs as well as covers of mixed genres. We are hosting three different contests, including best trunk decorations, best costume and best face mask (not Halloween mask). Since we have to wear masks, we should have some fun with it. We will be accepting donations at any time throughout the event.

Q: How will proceeds be used?

A. All funds raised support local autism programs. Through grants, local organizations are able to apply for these funds, and they have helped provide camp weeks at Camp Orchard Hill and art programs through SAFE. These funds support children and adults with autism.

Q: Why is community support so important?

A. Community support is important because autism is the unseen diagnosis. A lot of times, families end up staying home because it’s too exhausting to explain or even just feel the need to explain on a simple trip to the grocery store or to a restaurant. When a person can get understanding and support from his or her community, it is beneficial for the family and the community. This is where we live, and as the saying goes, “It takes a village.” Walls are easily knocked down when you have more people helping.