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Annual Winter Tradition Turns Up The Heat To Benefit Autism Awareness

SEA ISLE CITY (CBS) -- On Sunday, thousands of runners and walkers barreled down the boardwalk for the annual polar bear run/walk for autism in Sea Isle City.

But this year, no bundling up necessary!

"It's warm, but when I ran I got really sweaty," said eight-year-old Hudson Scola.

"What a beautiful day. Big difference from last year. I saw the weather was supposed to be nice, and I wanted to defend my title and run for a great cause," said Zach Miller of West Chester, PA, who once again won first place in the race and beat his record from last year by ten seconds.

Organizers say the beautiful weather helped make this a record-breaking year both in attendance and amount of money raised. They expect 5000 people showed up raising over $100,000.

The proceeds benefit special services schools, organizations like autism speaks, and families of special needs children.

"It looks like the biggest one yet," said Michael Nardi of South Dennis, NJ.

Michael and Ellen Nardi try to make it to the event each year with their 19-year-old son, Michael.

"When we go out and he's not acting like regular kids, they understand when I say he's autistic. It eases the burden on all of us so he can be who he is," said Ellen.

That's important to Pamela Pacifico, who works with special needs students in the Upper Township School District.

"I think if anything comes from this besides raising money, its raising awareness," Pacifico said.

And that's why mike monchetti of mike's seafood says he organizes the event each year.

"I have two autistic children. But I didn't do this to help my children, I did this to help other people's children," Monchetti said. "Seeing the families laughing and smiling, it's so special."

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