Speaking Out for Autism

I am fairly new to the Autism Community. Before working for CARD, the only experience I had with autism was J-Mac, my high school classmate who was diagnosed with autism and was our high schools’ basketball manager. Our senior year he stepped in and single handedly scored 20 points in four minutes during our senior game. Other than that, I was clueless. Cut to July 2012, and all of a sudden I was the new Operations Manager for the Center for Autism and Related Disorders. It took a while to wrap my head around what we really do and I didn’t really didn’t see the community aspect of autism until this past weekend. Our office contributed to the Autism Speaks: Rochester Walk for Autism.

We got to Monroe Community College around 8 am where it was a freezing 49 degrees! We set up our outdoor table that included pamphlets on Skills, eLearning, and CARD, along with a child-sized table for children to color on. Around 9:30 (and still around 50 degrees) parents started flooding in; we were giving away a free subscription to Skills, so many families became interested in Skills and what CARD does for the community.  It was so nice to see the families come to our booth and introduce their children to us!  We had a great spot, because right next to our booth was the Seneca Park Zoo showing off armadillos, a duck, and even a HUGE snake! Talk about great location!

It was inspiring to see all the different shirts, booths, and families who were so excited and willing to donate their time, effort, and money to the autism community. It really made the “1 in 88” tagline much more real. I never realized how many people are really are affected by autism.

When the walk started around 11 am, that’s when the community aspect really shined! Our staff all walked together and during the quick 1-mile loop, we noticed a sense of a community bond between everyone.  I’ve done my fair share of walks and runs, but they were never like this. I walked by dozens of families all supporting the same cause. It was so cute to see t-shirts with “Walking for Team Aubrey” or handmade banners for their family.  Many different organizations didn’t walk, but rather cheered on the people who did the walk. I couldn’t tell you how many high fives or “way to go!” I got as I did my quick 1-mile walk. It was also great to see my co-workers in their own element! They were so supportive and helped the other co-workers who were standing by the booth talking with the parents. A lot of them even saw their own clients at the walk!

The Autism Speaks walk actually spoke to me. It was much more than a fundraising event, or even an informative event. The Autism Speaks walk was a community effort to bring everyone together who knows someone diagnosed with autism, and fight for the cause. After meeting with parents of past clients, they only said the very best comes from CARD. It was easy to see this from the walk and from co-workers coming together to raise money for the same cause they fight for every single day, one family at a time. And now, I get to fight with them.