As you may or may not know, we just held our 11th Annual Hearts & Hands Walk for Autism and Family Fun Day on Saturday, September 20th, at the beautiful Francis Farm in Rehoboth!
Through the hard work and efforts of all the families/teams/individuals who fundraised to support CAR and the FREE programs and services we provide, approximately $70,000.00 has been raised AND donations are still coming in! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! We had a total of 595 participants and 85 volunteers this year! This event would not happen without our AMAZING families and volunteers!
This was our first year at a new location, and many things were trial and error, however, I have a working list of things to change/expand to make next year’s event BIGGER & BETTER! The input participants have given us, has been very helpful and it is much appreciated since our Family Fun Day portion of the event, is about us paying thanks to YOU for your support and fundraising efforts!
In preparing to write this months blog, I was very torn on what to write it on…do I write it solely on “Walk Wrap-Up News” after just publishing a special newsflash about it? Something else? I decided to give you a very brief overview, and then decided to write about the walk through my eyes…
This was my 3rd Hearts & Hands Walk for Autism as Development Coordinator for CAR and Walk Chairperson. I spend most of the year organizing and preparing for this event, to ensure that things are organized and run smoothly and to ensure everything is safe and enjoyable to participants of all ages and abilities! I am very grateful to my Walk Committee and my Co-Workers for helping decrease my work load by taking on different tasks throughout the year.
As a mother to a child with ASD, this was my 5th year organizing and walking with my family team, J.J.’s Hope & Friends. This is where it all began! 5 years ago, I created team J.J.’s Hope to honor my son Jayden and my cousin Jerry Jr., who both have ASD. Throughout the years, we have made many friends and our team has grown which resulted in the slight name change to J.J.’s Hope & Friends, to welcome our new friends to join us in our efforts. These families who have joined us over the last 3 years, share the same passion as we do! They take ACTION, they raise AWARENESS and they help raise NECESSARY FUNDS to help CAR keep providing services to families, for FREE! These families, just like mine, have benefited from Clinics, Family Events etc. They recognize that although these programs are free of charge to them, they aren’t free for CAR. They can appreciate the effort that goes in to the planning of these programs and want to give back! I am proud to know these families and have them as part of my “team”.
As hectic as walk day is, I always pull away and take time to walk with my family because it’s one of my favorite parts of the day! In a sense, the whole day comes together for me, at that moment. I see all of these people who come together for something that is so much bigger than Jayden, Jerry and their friends. There is love. There is acceptance. There is awareness. There are hundreds of other people walking along side of my family, for the same purpose. It makes me proud to be a part of that!
I also take time to bop around and ask people how they are doing and if they are having a good time. This interaction with families allows me to see many smiling faces, which truly sets the tone and the mood for the day. I am very fortunate to have an amazing and supportive family and group of friends. The days I spend with them laughing and having fun, are the moments I cherish and look forward to! Nothing makes me happier than seeing other children/families enjoying their time together, the way we do!
The support I receive from my family & friends, no matter what wacky team fundraising ideas I come up with, makes me feel very proud! Not only proud of the work that I do but proud of where I come from! I am the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family and have younger cousins ranging from ages 3 to 25 who have been walking or strolling along with us for the past 5 years. Same for my extended family! Our youngest team member this year was my 3 month old nephew and our oldest was my 72-year-old Grandmother! The beauty of having such a wide range of age groups means that all different generations are being exposed to people with Autism, not just within their family! The little ones in my family see little differences, if any, in Jayden, Jerry and their friends. They enjoy the walk along side of many others with ASD, and to me, that truly is what it is all about. Bringing all walks of life together for the same cause! No judgments passed! Just everyone enjoying a great day together!
I must admit, the journey I’ve taken in life would have been very different if Jayden wasn’t my son! As long and difficult as some days may be, I wouldn’t change it! If it wasn’t for Jayden, I’m sure I would have still been involved with CAR because of other family members and friends but, not to this degree. Because of my gorgeous boy, I took initiative to get MORE involved! I am blessed to work amongst some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and do the work that I love so much!