Frostbite 5k Raises Autism Awareness

Emily Hess, Staff Writer

The fourth annual Frostbite 5K Run and Walk was held on Sunday, February 15, at the North Park Boathouse. The Frostbite 5K is a popular Pittsburgh event and aims to raise public awareness of Autism.

“The event aims to raise money for the Autism Connection of PA and to also promote awareness of the developmental disability,” says TJ Burke to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Burke is an experienced local educator and youth worker. He spent six years as an autism therapist and as an advocate for adults diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Also a former Sharpsburg police officer, Burke works with Positive Movementz Promotions and Event Management to organize the run each year.

“Before I became a police officer, I worked as a mental therapist,” Burke said. “We want people to understand a little bit more about autism. We’re bringing everyone together to raise money, but we’re also educating people.”

During the event, Burke invited Mike Bruno to speak to the crowd. Bruno has a young daughter named Cassie who was diagnosed with Autism and is also legally blind. To honor his daughter and raise awareness of her disabilities, Bruno ran both the 2013 and 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon while blindfolded, and plans to do it again in 2015. To gain both sponsors and support before running the race, Bruno founded “Team Cassie”. All money donated to Team Cassie was given to the Vision Research ROPARD Foundation and to the Autism Speaks Foundation. Team Cassie will continue to give their donations to similar foundations in the future.

Like Team Cassie, The Frostbite 5k Run and Walk has also been successful in their journey to support their cause. According to Burke, “The event has raised more than $10,000 since the first race in 2011”. The 2011 race, also organized by Burke, benefitted the Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders (ABOARD). The ABOARD organization was created in 1995, and continues to support families by providing information about the disorder.

“TJ Burke was very moved by his autism work and is driven to  helping kids with autism,” said Lu Randall, executive director of the ABOARD organization to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He is a dynamic force working to get this new event noticed by sponsors, runners and walkers. His commitment to families with autism is strong, and his energy is super high.”

For more information about the race or supporting the cause, email TJ Burke at or find the event on Facebook at Autism Frostbite 5k or visit

To learn more about Team Cassie, visit

To learn more about the ABOARD organization, visit or call 412-781-4116.