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I’m not running to win, I’m running to honor

October 25, 2011 10 comments

Team Up! with Autism Speaks is dedicated to raising funds to support the mission of Autism Speaks through endurance events that we partner with.  Our goal with each race is to raise awareness and funds through races. We are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. We are committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals. Please join our team and help us accomplish our mission!

Billy Mann, father, husband, Autism Speaks Board Member, believer…I am 42 years old, not graceful and not pretty, I’m training hard and a week away from the New York Marathon.  Between online donations, mail-ins and my awesome friends, P!nk and Carey Hart for contributing $25,000 towards the $110,000, we are only about $33,000 away from reaching our goal of honoring the ONE in 110 children. 

TEN REASONS why I’m running the marathon for Autism Speaks

  • I’m running to honor the incredible autism moms out there like my wife for whom every day is a marathon that tests their limits and then some.
  • I’m running to acknowledge children at all ages who, like ours, spend months/years learning how to simply hold a fork, or speak a word or learn to put on their clothes by themselves.  The 5 hours or so it is likely going to take me to complete the 26.2 miles is nothing next to the 40 hours of therapy my son needs every week just to fight for bare basic skills. If these kids can do that, I can push myself to the limits to do this.
  • I’m running for the parents but also to acknowledge the siblings and grandparents—in or out of any organization–that came before my wife and I, to thank them for being on the front line of advocacy before there was an Autism Speaks, before there were any services and they were brave enough to find a way forward.
  • I’m running for parents whose children with autism are now becoming adults with autism. Between now (when my oldest son is 9 years old) and when my family faces this transition, today’s parents who are addressing this will have done so much to benefit families like mine and I want to honor them now, and always.
  • I’m running to honor the high-functioning autism community and say thank you for educating us and ensuring that the world remembers that every individual with autism—however they are uniquely affected– has a voice, an intellect, gifts and talents, a point of view as valuable as any citizen and each individual contribution to our world should be respected, protected, embraced and celebrated.  I am running to say thank you to them, too.
  • I’m running because the human body is not meant to run 26.2 miles but autism makes us go beyond our limits.  I’m running because it’s hard, because it takes me out of my comfort zone, because I feel awkward doing it, because it hurts, because it takes leisure time and sleep from me: all things that our families face every day and it is a small gesture by comparison.
  • I’m running to acknowledge parents and families many of you know but do not realize that right now, silently, they are at the end of their rope and feel that they can’t go on another day struggling with autism’s impact on their lives because they are just strapped emotionally, financially, physically and even spiritually.  These are the parents who will keep my legs moving when I feel I cannot go on any more because they find a way.
  • In the past 7 years since we received our son’s diagnosed, autism prevalence soared from 1 in 166, to 1 in 150, to 1 in 110 (and 1 in 70 boys) in the USA.  It is 1 in 56 in the UK.  It is 1 in 38 in S. Korea.  Every time I share the statistics with people they always ask the same question, “Why?” and all I can say is the truth: we still don’t really know. With the numbers rising much faster than anyone could have imagined, we are lost without raising money. I am running so that when I ask you to give, you know I’m in it with you every step of the way.
  • I’m running to honor Autism Speaks, every local chapter, every advocate, every parent or sibling who wears a pin or has a puzzle piece on their car or baseball hat.  I am running to say thank you for being a safe resource for families like mine.
  • Lastly, I am running for Christian Hildebrand, an extraordinary little guy who God placed in the right hands with the entire Wright family and in so doing inspired real change in the world for all of us affected by autism.

I don’t know if we can reach the $110,000 for the 1 in 110 kids, but the marathon isn’t for another two weeks.  I’m not running to win, I’m running to honor.

MSTFNSH…..Huh?

October 11, 2011 18 comments

Glen Finland is the author of Next Stop: A Son with Autism Grows Up, due out from AmyEinhornBooks/Putnam in April 2012.  www.glenfinland.com

MSTFNSH. At first it was a mystery to me, but that’s what the vanity license plate reads in the middle of the eight bumper stickers on the back of my autistic adult son’s little Toyota.  He’s 24 and he’s been driving himself to work for nearly two years now, pulling trash at county parks for minimum wage.  There’ve been two tickets for going ten miles over the speed limit, but other than a broken rearview mirror and the unexplained yellow paint on the side of his gray car, no crazy-making incidents.  I tell myself to just breathe.

And all those bumper stickers?  They consist of eight different ways to say “26.2 miles,” “Your punishment is my sport,” and simply “Runner!”  Because the countdown is now on. My boy David is running every night after work, in the dark and alone, rain or clear skies, training like a true athlete these days because he’s just a month away from making his dream come true.  It’s not his first marathon.  It’s his third and you better believe he’s competitive, having completed the Marine Corps Marathon in a swift 3:52.

Get ready, I’m gonna brag here and you can’t stop me: On November 6th of this year, David will run the New York City Marathon.  He will run for Team Achilles International, a group of disabled athletes founded and championed by New York distance runner Dick Traum who knows what it means to be a different sort of human being.  Forty years ago Dick lost his right leg in a crushing car accident when he stopped to fill up his car. Today he says that “Empowerment is what Achilles is all about. We don’t work with magic spells. We just go out and run, and in doing that, we discover that we do not have to sit quietly at home and dwell on our disabilities.” But he also knows that “every time human beings realize more of their potential, all of society benefits.”

But hold the pity fest.  The runners in this club don’t care to hear it.  In fact, they represent the sturdiest of us all: there’s an 80-year old nun, a landmine survivor from Grozny, Chechnya, a Cuban burn victim, a blind runner, a struggling to quit drug abuser, victims of traumatic brain injuries, and a platoon’s worth of U.S. veterans—Wounded Warriors who will attack the course on November 6th in their wheelchair racers or on prosthetic limbs or crutches.  I’m telling you, you’ve got to see it to appreciate the strength of character and force of nature that make every one of these athletes fit to run.  And now my David is one of them.

One more thing.  I finally figured out what the cryptic vanity plate means on the back of my son’s banged up Toyota.  MSTFNSH = M-U-S-T  F-I-N-I-S-H.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

Crowdrise Marathon Contest

September 22, 2010 1 comment

Our friends at Crowdrise are doing a contest for all of the New York City Marathon campaigns that have signed up this week.  Whichever marathon project raises the most money on Crowdrise, starting today, September 22, through the end of the day on Tuesday, September 28 will get their marathon project featured on one of the rotating slots on the Crowdrise home page for the following week.

Please check out the page and show some support for those on Team Autism Speaks for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon.

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