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Cathedral Of Learning To Shine Blue For Autism Awareness

If you’re traveling around Pittsburgh next Wednesday, you might be seeing blue, as more than a dozen buildings across the city are shining a light on autism, including the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

The cathedral is one of more than 8,400 buildings and landmarks around the world are participating in this year’s “Light It Up Blue” campaign to raise autism awareness, including Pittsburgh’s Gulf Tower, BNY Melon Building, and the Carnegie Science Center.

For the second year in a row, the cathedral’s victory lights will change hue on April 2, starting at 7:45 p.m., in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.

According to the Autism Society, 1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder and it’s the fastest-growing developmental disability with a growth rate of 1,148 percent.

Mariya Glukhovskaya, co-chair of “Light Pitt Up Blue,” said autism is a syndrome that’s largely misunderstood by the general public.

“When we went around flier-ing, asking people, ‘Have you heard about autism?’ they say ‘yes,’ but they don’t really know what it is and that it affects one in 88 children every day,” she said.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates  that one in 66 children is impacted by autism.

1 percent of children ages 3-17 in the U.S. have some sort of autism spectrum disorder, according to the Autism Society, and Glukhovskaya said that’s a number she’d like to see change.

“We want this event to be as big as Relay for Life and all the breast cancer awareness that we have on campus,” she said. “We want autism to receive that same kind of recognition.”

The Pitt pep band will perform on the William Pitt Union lawn, as well as a hip-hop dance crew. Information booths will be set up, with Student Groups sharing how autism research relates to their causes. Blue t-shirts, t-lights, pins and bracelets will be on sale all night, with all proceeds going to Autism Speaks, one of the largest autism science and advocacy organizations in the U.S.

Last year, the event raised about $3,500 for Autism Speaks, but this year, Glukhovskaya hopes to raise about $5,000.

“Last year was the first year, so it was hard because nobody knew about it and unfortunately, it was very, very cold outside,” she said, “but this year, we’re hoping for better weather.”

More than 300 people are expected to attend the event which is open to the public.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."