MVP (or, the Volunteer Whisperer)

Many of you probably know that the 2012 ARCCM Community Walk and Run for Autism Awareness Presented by Autism Intervention Specialists was the most successful one yet in terms of money raised. What many of you might not know is that the Walk portion of the daywas saved from disaster largely by one person. Her name is Kristen Saad, your 2013 Walk Chairperson and subject of this week’s entry.

“I think the Center is an amazing place at which many families find refuge,” Kristen believes. “In this crazy world we all live in, it gives many of us a sense of normalcy. Being on the Walk Committee was a no-brainer with everything the Center has done for us.”

Kristen, of course, wasn’t just “on the Walk Committee” as she so modestly states. She took on the extraordinarily challenging role of Volunteer Coordinator despite it being her first year. Making things even more daunting was the fact the Walk Committee was looking at nearly one-hundred percent turnover and almost no membership just five months prior to the big event, leaving a nervous, still-intact Run Committee scrambling about what to do.

Kristen, however, didn’t so much as blink. She simply took on the DIY (“Do It Yourself”) mantra adopted by so many of us autism parents and appointed herself Volunteer Recruiter, as well. Within a few weeks, she had re-stocked the Walk Committee with new members and found over fifty family members and friends to show up on the day of the event. Given that she and her husband Richie are raising three sons with special needs, two of whom have autism, such an accomplishment bordered upon superhuman. Naturally, Kristen doesn’t look at it like that. “Volunteering and getting involved is a small price compared to all that I have gained from the Center and all of the people attached to it.”

Her gratitude towards the ARCCM has been shaped through life experience. “My oldest son Codie is thirteen. When he was diagnosed, things were different. I was a young, single mother. I never really knew about any other places or services and no one really told me. I was on an IEP and that was it. But when my youngest son Trevor was diagnosed about two years ago, it was very different because of the Center. Not only did the Center help us sort through and process more information than I could have ever imagined, they saw us in a sea of emotion, picked us up, and added us to their ship. The Center has helped us to get back into public settings and feel comfortable.”

Kristen’s noble efforts for the ARCCM don’t stop with her incredible work with the Walk. She recently joined the Family Steering Committee and also serves on the committee of our second biggest annual fundraiser, the Golf Tournament. And who is the Golf Committee Chair? Her husband. “Richie wanted to be able to give back to the Center that does so much for all of us.”

While it is true the Center does do a lot for all of us, it is equally true that Kristen does, as well. If you see her on Walk day, be sure to thank her. Richie, too. They are truly two of the most valuable people in our extended autism family.