Hernando County firefighters don shirts for autism awareness

By Leah Masuda, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 18, 2017, 4:28 PM EDT

If you live in Hernando County you may notice your local fire fighters wearing a different uniform -- a uniform in support of autism awareness.

Firefighters touch lives every day. In Hernando County they're hoping to start a conversation about autism, starting with the shirts on their backs.

"It's been awesome, it's been overwhelming, really whether I’m on duty wearing a shirt, I’ve worn a shirt off-duty and people just come up and say 'Thank you' or 'Where can I get this shirt?'” said firefighter and paramedic Bill Walke.

"You wouldn't believe the stories you hear from other people that it does affect them some way or another."

One in every 68 children in the nation has autism. Walke's nephew is one of them.

"Watching my sister raise my nephew and just seeing the trials and tribulations they had to go through with schooling and stuff like that, it really hits me close to home," Walke said.

That's why Walke approached his union and asked if the department could purchase and wear the shirts though the month of April. Nearly each of the 260 members bought them.

That money will go to charity.


If you'd like to purchase a shirt, call 352-587-2606.

"It's bringing awareness, it's asking the question," said Division Chief Alex Lopez. "They see the shirt, it's a nice shirt, they see the pattern on the back and it prompts a conversation. And if we can prompt that conversation and bring awareness to the cause, that's half the battle."

The department is selling the shirts to the public as well. So far it has sold more than 500.

A company out of Tampa, Money Matters, will be matching the final donation. So far the department has raised $1,000. The proceeds will go to the Hernando County Special Olympics.

To purchase a shirt, call 352-587-2606.