Autistic adults supported by two charities founded by Dame Stephanie Shirley CH have strode out together on a joint fundraising event symbolising the start of exploring the organisations working more closely together.

Prior's Court's Young Adult Provision and Autism at Kingwood took part in Step by Step - Autism United on Wednesday, 17 April, with the event opened by Dame Stephanie herself.

The event featured 25 young adults from Prior’s Court’s Young Adult Provision and 25 adults supported by Autism at Kingwood taking to the Prior’s Court grounds in a joint-sponsored walk/jog/run fundraiser.

The two groups were challenged to reach a cumulative number of laps of the 0.6km Prior’s Court track, rather than each person being set individual targets giving the event a feel of inclusivity and teamwork. Overall, more than 320 laps were completed by the two groups.

Prior's Court's young adults were fundraising for our Performing Arts Centre appeal, with more than £1,300 raised so far.

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Ryan Campbell, Prior's Court Chief Executive Officer, said: "This was an incredible day to be involved in, full of joy for Prior's Court's young adults and our guests from Autism at Kingwood. It was also very special indeed to be able to share this with our inspirational founder Dame Stephanie Shirley, to whom both charities owe their existence.

"This will be a first step in exploring how we can work more closely together to support autistic people across the age groups - and what a first step it was."

The timing of the event was significant with both charities in landmark years.

Autism at Kingwood is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, being founded in 1994 by Dame Stephanie to support her autistic son Giles, removing him from a psychiatric hospital where he had lived for 11 years.

And, for Prior’s Court, the 2024/25 school year marks its 25th anniversary.

Dame Stephanie said: "I was privileged to fire the starting (bubble) pistol of the joint sponsored walk between Kingwood adults and Prior’s Court school young people. Such a testament to the unity of our communities! To witness the diverse array of participants finding joy in each step was truly life-affirming.

"The presence of Sarah Butcher, ex-Prior’s Court, now leading Kingwood, fostered hope for future collaborations and strengthening of bonds. We both stride towards a future filled with inclusivity, support and shared victories.

From left to right: Sarah Butcher (CEO, Autism at Kingwood), Dame Stephanie Shirley CH, Ryan Campbell (CEO, Prior's Court)

Together, the two charities directly support close to 200 people – with Prior’s Court specialising in education and residential care for autistic young people with complex needs aged 5 to 25 and Autism at Kingwood supporting around 110 autistic adults.

Sarah Butcher, Autism at Kingwod CEO and former Prior's Court Director of Wellbeing, said: "Autism at Kingwood and Prior's Court are two important charities that, between them, provide specialist support for the lifespan of autistic people.

"Coming together to celebrate the 50 autistic individuals who took on the walking challenge, was a perfect way to mark World Autism Acceptance Month. It was a truly joyful occasion for all involved."