Well, today was the big day. After six months of preparation and fundraising, our whole family took part in the 2012 Walk Now for Autism Speaks in Jacksonville.
Actually, the “event” began last night, when Richard and Louise and I got our hair dyed. Lee Trevino—yes, that’s his real name—has been cutting my hair for years, and when I told him about my scheme, he immediately volunteered his time to do the actual dyeing. I was willing to come in during his work schedule and pay whatever he charged for such a job, but Lee wanted to donate his time instead. I couldn’t talk him out of it. He has met most of my kids over the years, heard me tell stories about them, and has himself watched them grow up. So on one level it makes sense. But still it was very generous of this talented young Christian man to make a contribution that only he could make.
First up was me, with the full-head treatment. Then came Louise, who wanted a couple of streaks. Then it was Richard’s turn, and he went for a Mohawk.
The next morning, Katie decided the other kids should get a chance to join in the fun. She had secretly bought some more spray-on dye and offered to color anyone’s hair who wanted it. DeVaughn and Chris opted out, but Nicholas and Adele—the little, fun-loving ones, couldn’t wait. And, of course, Katie decided she’d give it a whirl.
So we got to the place for the walk—an outdoor retail/gathering place along the St. Johns River called The Landing. It was crawling with people from all over Northeast Florida, far more than the last one we attended in 2010. We were even joined by visitors from far, far away.
No, seriously. A group of Star Wars cosplayers was there in full gear. I spoke with one of the Storm Troopers, and he told me that the group gathers every other week for their own stuff, but they also like to attend charity events like this one to lift people’s spirits.
So anyway, after a bit of time hearing moving testimonies from a couple of people—parents of children with autism and the like—the emcee gave a countdown. And everyone began to walk. It was a one-mile round-trip walk along the river. Nothing too challenging, considering the number of children involved—and not a few wheelchairs. So we walked.
When we got back to The Landing, we were all cheered in by the emcee. It was a beautiful day—some clouds, around 84 degrees, with a nice breeze off the river. There was even a Kids Zone set up with a bounce house, animal balloons, and a Home Depot kid-builder spot. Best of all, the kids managed to keep it together (for the most part) the whole morning.
So that’s what happened—at least as far as the little ones were concerned. Katie and I knew something much more important was happening. Thousands of people gathered to celebrate the special people in their lives. They banded together to raise their voice on behalf of the millions of people who have an autism spectrum disorder. They raised nearly $70,000.00 to help raise awareness, fund research, and advocate for this unique and growing population. It was a very positive, almost jubilant, atmosphere as we all saw how many we were. I’ve said it before: dealing with ASDs can make people feel pretty much alone out there. So events like this walk are vital in showing us that we are far from alone!
So we did it. All of us. All of you. You helped me reach my goal, and for that I am exceedingly grateful. You told me that Katie and I have real friends all over the country. Friends who support us. Friends who pray for and with us. Friends who want to help us make a real difference. Thank you so much for your help!
Oh, I almost forgot. Here’s what I looked like all morning long:
Yep, you did that, too!