14th annual COCO competition in Cheshire raises funds for speech technology

CHESHIRE – More than 400 people attended the 14th annual Hot COCO 5K on Saturday in support of Capacity Without Borders.

The Norton School event drew runners from across the region, as well as fun runs and mile walks for the kids.

Proceeds from this year’s event go towards providing adaptive speech technology and speech therapy to clients in the Cheshire area.

The 5K run has athletes detour along North Brooksville Road and South Brooksville Road. The kids took part in a fun run around Norton School, while others enjoyed a mile walk along the Farmington Canal Trail. Afterwards, participants enjoyed hot cocoa, snacks and treats at booths in the school cafeteria and gymnasium.

The best runners were rewarded according to their age group, and all the kids in the fun run were awarded a ribbon for making it back to the finish line.

As their biggest fundraiser of the year, organizers aimed to raise $30,000 and couldn’t be happier with the event’s success. The race kicked off at 10 a.m. in fine weather, although downpours the night before caused some to cancel the race ahead of Saturday. Initially, they expected more than 600 entrants.

“If it weren’t for the weather forecast, we might have had 200 more people today,” said AWB spokesman Chris Loynd. “But everyone had a great time. We raised some big money to help We’re getting adaptive voice technology for our personal. So all in all, it’s a pretty good day.”

Abilities Without Boundaries, a nonprofit organization, has been helping people with disabilities in the Cheshire area since 1978, providing programs and employment opportunities for residents with special needs – currently serving 80 people through its programs. The COCO run was made up of several of these individuals, and the AWB Music Program performed before the fun run.

All proceeds from this event are used to expand AWB’s capacity to provide care for adults with speech disabilities. As a nonprofit, the organization used the campaign to find alternative ways to fund services other than through state funding.

“Half of the adults in our care have a communication disorder,” said Amanda Barnes, executive director of the AWB. “These people range from non-speakers to those with cognitive or articulation difficulties. New technologies can help us unleash their voices. We can help our individuals better express their thoughts. However, the cost of these devices And the speech therapists who implement these devices are not covered by our usual state funding.”

Their goal, Barnes said, is to help people with special needs fit in better in the community and be satisfied with the work they can accomplish.

“So our priority is to make them feel comfortable in the community, to be able to work with the community, and to give them a voice so that when they’re in the community, they’re accepted,” she said.

The event is held in partnership with JB Sports, an event management company that hosts runs in the New England area. Many other Cheshire businesses supported the run through donations and sponsorships, including local law firm Bartlett & Grippe, which donated $5,000.

COCO runs in previous years helped AWB purchase additional resources to advance care, enabled the agency to launch its music program and purchase wheelchair-accessible vans.

“It affects the larger community,” Lloyd said. “There are people in every community with these needs. It’s especially tough on caregivers and parents. We hope voice technology will be another success story.”

For those unable to attend the event, AWB still accepts individual donations throughout the year. For more information, visit abilitieswithoutboundaries.org/.

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