By MADDY VITALE
Mike Monichetti, the organizer of Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism, wants to let everyone who helped out or participated in another successful fundraiser that he is grateful.
This year’s event, held during Sea Isle City’s Presidents Day weekend celebration, brought in $150,000 and attracted thousands to help raise awareness to the cause and provide money for services and programs to those with autism and their families.
After going virtual during the last two years due to the pandemic, the fundraiser, in its 15th year, returned as a live event on Feb. 18 and the response from the community, neighboring towns and the region was even better than Monichetti had expected.
“We brought in $150,000 with checks still coming in today,” Monichetti said in an interview Monday.
He attributed that to the community’s intense interest in supporting the worthy cause and also heavy advertising for the event, especially after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic.
“We went all out advertising, but it was worth it,” he said.
There were 2,200 people who participated in the event on Sea Isle’s Promenade and another estimated 2,000 people who came out to support the participants, Monichetti noted.
Participants came from all over, as is the case every year. But this year, Monichetti noted more families attended from Ocean City, Somers Point and Margate than in previous years.
“There was a big following of people from Ocean City and also from Somers Point and Margate,” he said.
Following the run and walk, an awards ceremony and after-party were held in large, heated tents in Excursion Park next to the Promenade at John F. Kennedy Boulevard. The after-party featured food and family-friendly entertainment. Monichetti said he was truly grateful to the 1st Bank of Sea Isle City for donating the heated tents.
Monichetti and his wife, Jeannie, have four children, including two who have autism, Kara, 22, and Michael Jr., 20. Having autistic children and knowing the challenges that parents with autistic children face on a daily basis served as their inspiration for starting the fundraiser.
“We are promoting autism awareness. It is not just about the money, but to raise autism awareness,” Monichetti said. “We had 15 tables with people handing out information to tell young parents if they have loved ones on the spectrum, where they can get help from different government organizations, agencies and support groups.”
Some of the funds raised went to offset the costs for the event, other money will go to support special services schools, autism support groups and families of special needs children, Monichetti said.
Over its 15-year history, the run-walk has raised more than $1 million for autism-related causes. The broad network of supporters for the cause continues to touch Monichetti.
Like all the years before, Monichetti and his family will begin planning for next year’s run-walk, which will be held in Sea Isle on Feb. 17, 2024.
Monichetti said he wants to live his life to help other people.
“To see so many participants show up was nice. Just to have all the people come up to me,” he said. “You might not remember the names, but you remember the faces, thanking us for bringing this back to do the event is a wonderful feeling. You know you touched so many people and so many people support children with disabilities.”