How a Norfolk charity is using Pokemon GO to help people with autism
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
It made for an unusual sight - people clutching mobile phones, walking around a beauty spot, hunting for creatures with names such as Pikachu, Sandshrew, Swablu and Surskit.
For those not in the know, it must have been a bit baffling.
But for more than 300 fans of the popular mobile game Pokemon GO, it was a day to remember at Whitlingham Country Park.
The game sees people use their phones to catch creatures and evolve them into new forms.
And Niantic, the developers of Pokemon GO joined forces with Dereham-based charity ASD Helping Hands for Saturday's special event at the park on the edge of Norwich.
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ASD Helping Hands was set up in 2010 and supports more than 1,300 families, mainly in Norfolk and Suffolk, who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.
And their Walk For Autism event around the park, meant Pokemon GO players were able to take part in a selection of special in-game activities, with extra locations and bonuses for game players.
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Players also uploaded pictures of Pokemon at the park to Twitter, using the #WalkForAutism hashtag.
The event came towards the end of World Autism Awareness Week, from April 1 to April 7.
Lee Gibbons, operations manager at ASD Helping Hands, said: 'The reason for it being Pokemon GO is that we have worked with several youngsters who had become socially isolated.
'They refused to leave their homes, which has an impact on their mental health.
'We've used Pokemon GO to connect them back to the community.
'Through the app, they can meet like-minded people and it encourages them to get out.'
Mr Gibbons said his communications officer Ben Thomas had got in touch with Niantic to put on the event.
He said: 'It went really well. We had about 300 to 350 young people and adults taking part.
'It also enabled us to raise awareness of what we do as a charity and to raise some money.'
He said the event had raised £800 for the charity, which will be matched by Niantic to push it up to £1,600.
Mr Gibbons said there is currently a three to four year wait for an autism diagnoses in Norfolk and the money would help the charity support people in need of help.