When the ninth-annual Zoowalk for Autism Research kicks off next Saturday at the Phoenix Zoo, the participants will sport a T-shirt featuring the design of a Mesa resident who has worked to rise above the disorder.
The winner, 21-year-old Chris Weemes, had his drawing of a phoenix sitting just below the phrase “Rise above autism” selected among all the entrants to win the Zoowalk’s T-shirt design competition. As a result, Weemes’ drawing will appear on thousand of T-shirts that will be worn by the participants in the Oct. 5 event run by Arizona State University’s Autism/Asperger’s Research Program.
Weemes said he was quite excited to win the contest, and said he wasn’t expecting his entry to take first.
“It was mostly my mom’s idea to get me into the contest; I figured it would be fun,” he said.
Part of the inspiration for the use of the phoenix is its symbolic representation of rebirth and rising above the disorder. Although autism is part of his everyday life, Weemes said it doesn’t have that prominent of an effect on his life.
“It’s not that big of a deal, but it was back then,” he said.
Weemes does draw on a regular basis, often using other photos as inspiration for his work. Included in the notepad he draws in are re-creations of cartoon and video game characters like Fox McCloud and a drawing of a church in Germany. When he’s not drawing, he works at a courtesy clerk at Basha’s and does a lot of biking and goes to the library.
Weemes will be one of the thousands who will walk on the fifth — he has participated in the walk in previous years — and he said he’s looking forward to it for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons he cited is the location, as the walk offers him an opportunity to visit the zoo’s wildlife, especially the bats.
The other reason is the nature of the event itself, as the money — the goal figure is $150,000 — raised from it goes to ASU to support autism research. This year’s research project is a multi-treatment study for children and adults with autism.
Weemes’ design that will adorn the T-shirt should aid in the fundraising effort, and he said he’s looking forward to helping people of all ages who have autism.
“Basically, the influence I provide, (to) get people to autism meetings,” he said.
The event begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 9 a.m. on Oct. 5 at the Phoenix Zoo, which is located at 455 N. Galvin Parkway. Participation is $25 for adults, $15 for teens and free for participants 12 and younger, and everyone who walks receives a wristband for all-day zoo admittance.
For more information about the event, or to sign up, visit zoowalk.org.
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