HMEA’s AUTISM RESOURCE CENTRAL’S
COMMUNITY 5K & WALK FOR AUTISM ACCEPTANCE
A Note from our Director
Thirty years ago my life changed forever. I had no way of knowing what a cataclysmic shift the birth of my long awaited son would cause. The “game plan” at that time was to have a boy, a compliment to his three year old sister, then another boy and a girl and once they were in kindergarten I would return to my career as a nurse.
We had it all planned out, and a nest egg of savings to allow us to live on one income for 6-8 years. We were still on target with our plan 21 months later when our second daughter was born. By that time we had a pretty good idea that there was a profound difference in our son’s development but like many pediatricians at the time, our doctor assured us that boys were simply different. The difference turned out to be autism and it changed our lives in so many ways.
Just like our kids, there are times that those changed plans are upsetting to me. Times that I wish things had been different, but they’re not, and rather than bemoaning what might have been, I focus on the joys of what is. After 30 years I am still thoroughly smitten by my son, with all his quirks and challenges, I wouldn’t have him any other way.
Sure I’d like to remove some of the challenges for him, we all want our children to be happy. When he was old enough that I could return to work, rather than returning to nursing, I came to the Autism Resource Center. It was here that I felt I could make a difference in removing some of the obstacles in his life.
Shortly after I began at the Center we began having Autism Awareness Events at the State House. Two years later we started our annual Community Walk for Autism Awareness. These two initiatives probably have made the biggest impact in changing the world not only for my son , but for everyone’s sons and daughters who are challenged by autism in Central Massachusetts . Since 1999 when I started at the Center we have seen the numbers of those affected by autism increase on a yearly basis and so the need has never been greater. The Annual Community 5K Run and Walk for Awareness has morphed into the 5K Run and Walk for Autism Acceptance. Preparation for the event has gone from me throwing a case of water into my car and heading to a track to as six month planning process with over 100 people involved as volunteers and 2,000 people participating. This has allowed us to move beyond the initial vision for the Center of support and referral for parents to being THE Center of the Autism Community in Central Massachusetts. You’ve made that happen.
There is always progress on our journey, even on days when we feel as if we are moving backwards, Lord knows I’ve had my share of those days. I have learned to look for a glimmer of hope every day. This year was the first time in Ed’s life that he has focused on his birthday well ahead of the day. He was asking what our plans were to celebrate. Sure this would have been nice when he was eight years old, or even at eighteen years old, and would have eliminated anguishing over what would be a good gift for him. But better late than never. This year Ed was thirty, and his plans were not centered on toys or juvenile pursuits. We invited friends and family to join us for drinks at a local establishment, and the next day we celebrated with his nephews with cake, ice cream and presents. Thanks to his nephews, Ed can have it all. At thirty, Ed made his preference for an age appropriate celebration known, having participated in his sister’s birthdays at the establishment, he asked for the same. My boy has grown up, he still has some of the challenges that autism can bring but he is not a child trapped in an adult’s body. He made that clear and I rejoiced in his growth.
So that all our children can grow up and take their place in the world, I’m asking that every one associated with the Center plan to help next April, by participating in either the 5 K Run or the Walk, or by joining the 5k Run and Walk Committee. The funds raised will be used to create opportunities for growth for all our children, supports for their families and allow us to meet the ever growing need as more families are challenged by autism and as our children become adults with autism. Our Village is growing every day. If EVERY family registered with the Center raised $100.00 we would easily exceed our goal. Think about it, imagine what we can build together to support each and every person in central Massachusetts affected by autism
Together we can make the world a better place for our sons and daughters, I can’t do it alone!
The 2020 5K Run and Walk committee began planning the 20th event in October, we’ve some critical vacancies for the committee and we can use a small army of volunteers and we invite you to join us! Contact Director of Operations Kristen Cariglia at Kcariglia@hmea.org if you’d like to help!