COLUMBIA, Mo. -

Hundreds of families and friends packed Columbia's Town and Country Lanes Saturday afternoon for the 11th annual Bowling for Autism event.

The fundraiser, which also featured a silent auction, raised money for Easter Seals Midwest to provide scholarship support to families of children with autism.

The scholarships could be used to send kids to camps or treatment. Some of the money also went to help improve services for the organization.

"This is an awesome opportunity for everyone to be involved and it's great to see them all working together and supporting each other," said Staci Bowlen, autism services director for Easter Seals Midwest.

Bowling for Autism was on track to raise nearly $25,000 for the cause this year. Since it began, the event has drawn in about $250,000.

Ask any family packed around the lanes on Saturday, though, and they would tell you the event does more than just raise money - it raises spirits.

"We can actually do something without being concerned about anybody else being bothered by how the children may react to it," said Toni Hall. She is the mother of a boy with autism who took part in the event.

April is Autism Awareness Month and new numbers released last week showed one in 68 children has been diagnosed with some form of autism. That number had been on the rise for years.