Monday, April 23, 2012

Why I Walk

There is something about walk day that brings me to tears.  Happy tears, not sad ones.  It is the one time of year that we fit in.  We are one huge family looking out for each other.  It doesn't matter if your child is having a meltdown and is screaming his head off....no one stares, no one judges they offer to help. 

Saturday, April 21 was our walk day.  It was an absolutely beautiful day!  Perfect weather with perfect company.  This year there were over 9,000 people who attended the Walk Now for Autism Speaks, Lehigh Valley.  It is the largest walk in our area and only one park who can hold this many people.  Special thanks to Jennifer Smith, Walk Director of Autism Speaks, Nancy and Sheri Miltenberger and all of the committee members who put on such an amazing event. 

Flash back to our first walk which was in 2009.  He started at the CLIU 21 in November 2008 and were still very new to autism and what to expect. His behaviors were still very much out of control. We weren't sure of going but we did.  We only knew his teacher and we were unsure of what to expect.   We didn't know therapists, agencies or any other families;  we were so isolated.  As we were in line ready to walk I couldn't stop the tears.  It was the first time I realized there were so many other families in the same situation as ours. It was first time I didn't feel like we were all alone. 

Fast forward to Saturday.  Hugs-a-plenty were going around.  The smile on our faces were huge because everywhere we turned we knew families and therapists and greeted each other with hugs.  As my son and I went around to talk with others I felt so warm, filled with hope and optimism.  So many people who depend on each other, respect each other's opinions and will help each other out when asked.  We stopped often to say hello to new friends and old.  I even met reader Karen and her family. 

My home away from home, ARCH of the Lehigh Valley, was there in the vendor area and they also had their own family gathering location.  I stopped to speak with Ellen, the director for a while and also many friends.  This Friday is their big fundraiser....wine fundraiser!  Can't wait.  They are my backbone.  If we need anything, anything at all, I depend on them. 

My daughter, who is typical, even got into it this year because her friends, teacher and coach also joined us.  This wasn't just another thing for her brother, it was for her also.  When we started to walk my husband and I couldn't even find her.  She went off with her girlfriends and walked with them.  As we started her nursery school teacher caught up with me and we walked together.  We had family from both sides come out to support us, new friends, old friends, current teachers, former teachers and people we have never even met but knew us through Facebook

As the years go by our family grows and so does our support network.  I do support Autism Speaks and I'm proud to do so.  I believe in the science. The CDC numbers are now 1 in 88. That scares me. I take full responsibility for my son. It is up to us to find him the therapies he needs and to work with the school and to get everyone on the same page. I rely on Autism Speaks to keep doing research and to find what is causing autism.   I walk for my son who has autism.  I walk for my daughter who is typical.  I walk for my immediate and extended family.  I walk for generations to come.

2012 Grape Jelly on Pizza

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