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Geocaching for a cause

Between two small trees on a swath of land off of Swaggartown and Van Buren Road in Glenville, Nicholas McPherson planted secret treasures in an old army ammo box, hoping to spread awareness of autism across the country.

Geocaching is a hobby that combines the use of handheld GPS devices, the internet, and outdoor pursuits such as hiking and orienteering. Participants create and post online the coordinates of hidden trinkets nationally, and internationally, that can be found by other enthusiasts. When a geocache is found, participants are encouraged to take a trinket in place of something they own themselves. For McPherson, an 8 year old who is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, geocaching is a passion that is fueled by his interest in computers and mapping.

Daddy told me about it and I got really interested in it, said McPherson.

McPherson's mother, Shelia, said her son has a keen sense of direction and is able to find hidden caches during day hikes and family trips and that geocahing helps to combine his other interests into one activity.

"Its good because it keeps him interested and breaks the trip up," she said. "This ties it all together, geocaching lets him do a little of everything."

Working with his father, Gary, McPherson created a geocache with an autism theme in celebration of Autism Awareness Month-including puzzles, small toys, bubbles and a notepad for visitors to log their findings. A small geocoin, shaped in the form of the Autism Awareness ribbon, with interlocking puzzle pieces, is also included in the cache and is considered a "trackable," or an item that can be moved from cache to cache across the country. When the geocoin is taken from the box, the serial number on the back of the coin can be entered into an online database to map its location throughout the country. While some trackables do not have a final destinations, other are given missions by the original creators on where they would like to see their trackables end up around the world. The McPhersons would like to see the autism geocoin travel cross country, with a final destination of Hawaii. With puzzle piece painted on the front of the ammo box, and a small message in the front page of the log book, the McPhersons explain the background of the puzzle pieces in the cache and the autism-related geocoin.

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