My Run Wild for Autism Experience
John-Benjamin our 4 year old has brought so much enjoyment to our lives and at the same time made us aware of a subject that we were not informed of before his birth. As of 2014 1 in every 68 children are born on the Autism spectrum, the prevalence of the disease has risen by 119 percent which makes the fast disease disease in the U.S. Of course our lives like most parents with parents who give birth to children on the autism spectrum changed greatly and in many ways I am thankful for that. My wife has become an advocate for autism awareness and support, and we have both studied the disease to gain a better understanding of what it is and how to best support our son.
One of the ways we support J.B. is through community events. From park festivals to boat rides in the Baltimore Harbor we have taken an active stance to place J.B. around supporters who understand him and are willing to assist in his growth and development. One such event was the Autism Awareness Run, held annually at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore the run was less like a sporting event and more like celebration. It was our first time there, and the Stephens was up early to support our son and brother along with hundreds of other autistic children and adults who came out to participate for this great cause.
Upon arrival the event staff was friendly and informative (something that can hard to do at 7:30am) they gave us our tshirts and numbers pointed us to the route. Now there were two options one the competitive 4k run or the family walk, with it being our first year we decided for the family walk, but we have placed the run on our bucket list.
The first you notice is the amount of family decorated in signs, face paint, custom clothes, and autism paraphernalia to support their family members. It’s very encouraging to see the support and it warmed my heart. While walking I run into two of my former students and their families who inform me they they attend and participate every year.
Though most of the animals were still sleeping and tucked away the indoor homes the walking route was still scenic and full of people willing to talk and share their family member’s story with us. After finishing the route you were greeted with applause and fan fare from supporters and other walkers/ runners who have finished the course. This was especially funny to us because our oldest son Trey took off running once we were close to the finish line and instead of going the through the walkers finish line, he made the wrong turn and went through the runner’s finish line to many cheers from the people there!
After we finished the walk there was a party for the kids and adults, I call it a party because the atmosphere was so energetic and positive. Companies were present with food, ice cream, giveaways, and prizes for drawings. Kids ran around, played games and danced to the DJ. Overall it was a great day for the Stephens family, a day we will never forget, we are excited and ready to get back and participate this year along with every year after that!!!
Thanks to Pathfinders for Autism for providing our family free spots in the Run Wild for Autism Family Fun Run. Any opinions expressed are my own. To learn more about Pathfinders for Autism and to donate to their programs, visit their website. Be sure to save the date for the upcoming race that is scheduled for Sunday, September 25th, 2016.