I immediately gravitated towards the Community Outreach Committee, in equal parts because it was an area of interest and because Deidre Legge, Community Outreach Sub-Committee Chair, was so warm and enthusiastic! I was well aware of the tremendous progress that Autism Speaks has made towards generating and increasing awareness of autism, but as I explored the website prior to attending my first meeting, I was amazed at all the information, resources, grants, etc. that Autism Speaks provides! As someone whose primarily knowledge about Autism Speaks was their Walk events, I felt that it was my obligation to tell other parents, and others in my community about everything that Autism Speaks, as an organization, has to offer! My top 3 reasons for my commitment to Autism Speaks are definitely all self-serving! Firstly, being involved means an instant community – a community of parents, grandparents, siblings, co-workers, etc of people who are involved because they have a connection to autism. This shared connection means that no matter what the specifics are, they understand the challenges, they don’t judge your decisions, they empathize with your struggles. Because I felt understood, accepted and comfortable, it was easy for me to want to spend more time with these people, volunteering for events, etc… The second reason for my involvement with Autism Speaks is the positive reinforcement I get for every little thing that I do! The Staff and Committee Chairs are always praising me and making me feel that everything I do is amazing (I even get enthusiastic praise for making a phone call to someone!) For a mom like me, who has not been in the working world since her kids were diagnosed (and who led, like most moms, a pretty isolated life since getting the diagnosis) this positive reinforcement makes me feel like I am on top of the world! Lastly, whether I am confirming contact information for Autism Speaks’ records, convincing my local newspaper to write an article on this year’s Walk Now for Autism Speaks or facilitating a meeting between Autism Speaks and my district school, I know that I am making a difference. I know that through my commitment to Autism Speaks, I am giving back to an organization that is working to ensure that my kids, and all kids with autism, get the support they need from an aware and educated community. And that makes me feel amazing! To get more involved in your community, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.