The 244 steps ascending from the Tom and Huck Statue to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse will take on a new meaning on Saturday, April 29, as people of all ages gather for activities and a scenic climb to raise awareness and provide support to special needs families.

The 244 steps ascending from the Tom and Huck Statue to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse will take on a new meaning on Saturday, April 29, as people of all ages gather for activities and a scenic climb to raise awareness and provide support to special needs families.

The Shine A Light on Autism Lighthouse Challenge has become a tradition in downtown Hannibal for raising awareness and funds to support families with special needs in the area. For 2017, the challenge of climbing those flights of stairs is joined with children's activities like a bounce house, face painting and games. The festivities will kick off Saturday morning, at the Tom and Huck Statue.

There are several ways that families and individuals can make a difference during the day. Registration and packet pick up will take place from 7 to 8 a.m. A Family Challenge admission costs $60 and includes t-shirts and water bottles for two adults and two children. For $50, a Competitive Climbers registration includes a moisture-wicking t-shirt — the competition begins at 8 a.m. with competitors climbing as many flights as they can. A Lighthouse Challenger can register for $25. They will receive a t-shirt and are welcome to participate in the climb from 9 to 11 a.m. Kids Challenger admission will be $10, including a t-shirt. Participants who are 10 years old and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

In addition to the competitive and challenger level climbs, Hannibal Regional Medical Group will sponsor a free kids carnival from 9 to 11 a.m. The Hannibal High School Sparkle Squad will provide entertainment throughout the event.

With every step toward the lighthouse and every laugh from playing children, the goal of the Lighthouse Challenge remains unwavering — to make a positive impact for local families and children with special needs.

Please visit http://www.shinealightonautism.org to register for the event or receive more information.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com