PHOENIX, Md., May 17, 2021 – Today, Maryland’s largest autism resource center Pathfinders for Autism formally commenced its 2021 Dip Challenge Tour, a statewide bus tour and major fundraising initiative to expand autism resources and programs across Maryland. The announcement was made during Pathfinders’ 20th Annual Golf Tournament at Hillendale Country Club.

“For the last 21 years, we have been proud to serve the autism community in Maryland by linking families and individuals to needed services, education, and support at no cost to them,” says Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer BJ Surhoff. He and his wife Polly Winde Surhoff are co-founders of Pathfinders for Autism, along with other parents of children with autism. “Through the Dip Challenge campaign, we hope to raise the funds needed to expand these programs to all regions of Maryland and make an even greater impact.”

Since 2000, Pathfinders for Autism has worked to support and improve the lives of individuals affected by autism through expansive, customized programming, and by providing resources, training, information, and activities free of charge. The Pathfinders for Autism 2021 Dip Challenge Tour is a game-changing new campaign to promote awareness and raise $1 million to expand its reach across the state of Maryland.

“The Dip Challenge tour bus is an autism resource center on wheels,” says Rebecca Rienzi, executive director at Pathfinders for Autism. “We are excited to literally drive our mission across the state and pay a visit to Bel Air, Annapolis, Hagerstown, Hollywood, Rockville, Baltimore, Ocean City, and more.”

Wrapped in colorful campaign graphics, the tour bus is the centerpiece of the Dip Challenge Tour. From May through October 2021, the mobile resource center will travel all across Maryland to raise awareness of the challenges that individuals with autism spectrum disorder face and connect families with resources available to them. In partnership with local businesses and attractions including Graul’s Market, Compass Home Group, Sunset Auto Club, Behavioral Framework, Media Star Promotions, the Aberdeen Iron Birds, and Hagerstown Ford, the Pathfinders for Autism team aims to encourage individuals to donate to the campaign in order to support the expansion of programs like safety kits, family fun events, and education and training.

According to the CDC, Maryland has the fourth highest autism rate in the U.S. One out of every 52 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and 1 out of 6 is diagnosed with some type of intellectual/developmental disability.  

In 2020, despite a global pandemic, Pathfinders for Autism served more than 19,000 individuals through its resource center, recreational activities, and training events. The organization created a COVIDresource web page that gave families a valuable resource for at-home activities, coping tips, education resources, stories, and virtual field trips. Also in 2020, Pathfinders was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to increase awareness of missing persons with developmental disabilities and promote programs that reduce the risk of injury and death related to wandering and elopement.

With its Dip Challenge, Pathfinders for Autism is among the first major charities to use a new fundraising technology called DipJar. The DipJar makes donating fun and easy with a small portable device in which a donor can insert a credit card and quickly make a cashless donation.

“We hope to inspire the autism community and corporations to ‘dip into their hearts’ and take our Dip Challenge to improve lives and make a difference to families and individuals living with autism,” says Katie Ramirez, development director at Pathfinders for Autism.

For more information about the Pathfinders for Autism 2021 Dip Challenge, please visit dipchallenge.org


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