For those of you who supported me last year, you've already met Jack. For those of you new to my page, I'd like to introduce you to our 9 year-old son, Jack! Jack's dreams and passions morph from year to year. While he's no longer obsessed with owning a mansion, he still wants to be a professional hockey player when he grows up. Having finally recognized that skating is pretty difficult, Jack's fallback plan is to be a hockey announcer, which you can find him doing most evenings and weekends when we play driveway, garage, kitchen, hallway, living room, or upstairs hockey. He narrates every play, even when he's playing solo. Jack still thinks that if his hockey playing or announcing career doesn't pan out, he'll support himself by selling his hockey cards and equipment -- a pretty solid plan for a 9 year-old, if you ask me! Jack's still extremely intelligent, loving, funny, stubborn, literal to the nth degree, and one of the most empathetic individuals you'll ever meet. Jack just also happens to have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was three.
While Jack's brain may be wired differently than yours and mine and he sometimes struggles with simple tasks and interpersonal interactions that you and I take for granted, Jack's been crushing life. Some of his success can no doubt be attributed to my wife Erica and me (well, mostly Erica) and our efforts to create a supportive home environment. But much of that success comes from the myriad of services and extraordinary providers we've arranged for Jack in the months and years since his early ASD diagnosis.
Though much has been learned about the brain and autism over the past several decades, and more and more resources have become available to individuals and families with loved ones on the spectrum, there is much left to accomplish. That's where charities like the Organization for Autism Research come in. OAR's mission is "to apply research to the challenges of autism" and funds studies that investigate issues related to diagnosis, early intervention, education, transition to adulthood, housing, employment, and life care. Basically, OAR's platform helps ensure that kids like Jack have the future they deserve.
Now, here's where you come in. Last year, with your support, I raised almost $17K as I trained and participated in IRONMAN Florida. It was an absolutely epic experience, and knowing I couldn't let our supporters down propelled me to a sub 12-hour finish, which was my goal. But, I'll be honest, the 2.4 mile IRONMAN swim wasn't all that difficult (don't get me wrong, the 112-mile bike and subsequent marathon were brutal). That's why I've decided to up the swimming ante this year and participate in the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse.
What is the Swim for Alligator Lighthouse? Well, Red Bull Racing has dubbed it one of the top 8 toughest swimming challenges in the world! It's an 8-mile open ocean swim in Islamorada (the Florida Keys) where racers swim 4 miles out to Alligator Lighthouse, make the turn, and swim four miles back to shore. All swimmers must have dedicated kayak support, and I've chosen one of the best (I hope)-- none other than my wife, Erica Connor. What's even more exciting, the race is scheduled for September 9th, which happens to be our daughter Caroline's 12th birthday AND Jack's 10th birthday! So the whole race weekend is going to be a family affair.
I understand and respect that charitable giving is a very personal choice. Nonetheless, I encourage you to consider supporting our family and the millions of other families like ours with loved ones on the spectrum by making a small donation to OAR (but large enough to top last year's $16,335.20 fundraising mark). Doing so will help provide necessary funding for autism research and resources for families needing support. Most importantly, you'll be helping ensure that Jack -- and kids like Jack -- have opportunities to fulfill their dreams and live life to the fullest.
Thanks for your time and your donation,
WHY RUN FOR AUTISM? 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism. By joining the RUN FOR AUTISM team, you’re supporting OAR’s mission to fund research and resources that help people with autism and their families today.
Here are some of the ways that OAR uses the funds raised by the RUN FOR AUTISM team:
$10 provides a Curriculum in a Box professional development set to general education teachers. $25 provides 15 copies of A Guide to Safety to families and first responders. $100 provides the Kit for Kids peer education resource to an entire elementary or middle school. $150 provides 100 copies of a Life Journey through Autism guidebook sent to a community support group or military installation. $1,000 provides a research grant for a graduate student studying autism. $3,000 provides a scholarship for a student with autism to attend college. $40,000 fully underwrites an applied research pilot study.