Jacksonville Autistic Society throws annual party and gives gifts to local community with autism

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — This Christmas holiday, we want to highlight people helping people. Action News Jax’s Princess Jhane Stepherson sat down at a Christmas party with Demetria Walker, the founder of Jacksonville Autistic Society. Walkers mission in life is to make sure those with autism are treated equally.

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Demetria Walker founded The Jacksonville Autistic Society in 2019 for people who have autism like her son Sha’michael.

“My son does not have an illness. He does not have a disease. He just happens to be autistic. To me, it just makes him special,” said Walker.

What’s also special is the annual Christmas party Walker has been putting on for the last two years that celebrates the Jacksonville autistic community.

“Events like this help them get out the house with people, with kids that will not judge,” explained Walker. “As [Sha’michael] grew older, he kept doing things a little later than other kids, but he still did them. Hind sight looking back, I can say, ‘Oh snap! That was autism.’”

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The goal of JAS is to help people with autism get an early diagnosis. It’s also meant to show people that whether you’re on the spectrum or not, anyone with autism can do the same thing as anyone else.

“If I would’ve known I would have done better,” said Walker.

Walker is doing better now. This year, her Christmas party pulled out all the stops, and she didn’t do it alone.

Walker’s childhood friend, Michael Friend, has two teenagers with autism. He has watched as JAS has grown over the last two years. This year, Michael wanted to make Demetria’s Christmas party even more special with the first ever Santa’s Little Angels Christmas Run.

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“I just coordinated a motorcycle, jeep and car run and part of the admissions was cash or cash and toy for reduced admission,” explained Friend.

Santa’s Little Angels Christmas run brought in just over 50 presents for JAS. The Christmas party had games, food and if you’re on the nice list, you got to see Santa. Demetria’s ultimate goal is to have a recreational center for every autistic child in Jax.

When Stepherson asked Walker if she could tell anyone with autism watching for some advice, this is what she said: “I love you, come talk to me because I will accept you how you are.”