This post is by Ann Gibbons, autism mom and executive director, Autism Speaks National Capital Area
On Sunday morning, October 7th a group of runners gathered in the early morning rain to run with a purpose in the third annual Wilson Bridge Half Marathon in suburban Washington, DC. The 29 members of the TMA Resources Team included a very special runner this year. Wallace, who just turned 16, has autism and had trained all summer with his father for the 13.1 mile event.
This was not Wallace's first race; he participated in the Marine Corps 10K last fall with his father. One bystander wrote, "The younger man was happily running along with rosy cheeks and clearly enjoying the sheer delight of freedom at that moment, more or less oblivious to the thousands of others around him. The other man was close behind. I just wanted to write and say (though I really can't describe it) how moving it was to see this father's love and dedication to the best interest of his child." Quite a pair of athletes!
Wallace and his father crossed the Wilson Bridge Half finish line after three hours. Occasionally his father put his hand on Wilson’s back during the run, and they reached the finish line together. At the end of the day, the TMA Resources team had raised $35,500 for Autism Speaks.
Race organizer Steve Nearman, who also has a son with autism, addressed the company not long ago; "So I was telling them how if you don't have a kid with autism, you really can't know what it's like; and in the back of the room this guy was nodding vigorously. Oh, here's a dad," I said to myself. In their three years of running, TMA Resources; has raised over $95,000 for autism research.
CEO Edi Dor put it best. “As I said last year, the majority of families with autistic children or adults are not as fortunate as mine. They cope with immense emotional and financial stress. It is difficult to imagine how families who live pay check to pay check and have an autistic child persevere.
In the US, with 1 in 88 children diagnosed with autism, and with the federal government in great debt and hopelessly incapable of funding anything more than just the most basic research, it is up to groups such as Autism Speaks to do it all. Autism Speaks funds research, education, early intervention programs, group homes (of which there are so few), online networks, etc. Of course, Autism Speaks relies on people like you, who care enough to see and are so generous.
Here is a letter from Wallace's father, Wilson:
Dear friends at TMAR,
Wallace did it – he completed his first half marathon in 2 hour 52 minutes - 23 minutes faster than his expected finished time! He really amused me that he ran pretty strong toward the end. Wallace and I started the training over 3 months ago with 1 mile run/jog, and increased the distance by 10-15% each week. He did a practice run/jog of 13 miles 3 weeks ago in 3 hours 15 minutes. Overall, he put in around 100 miles of training. The most challenging part of training for Wallace is to get up at 6:15am on weekday (2/3 times per week) to run for 2.5 miles (about 30-35 minutes), and still leave enough time to shower, eat breakfast and catch the bus.
We would like to take this opportunity to thanks those who supported Wallace this year, and all of you who supported us in the past. As you all know Wallace is the reason and inspiration for this challenge. He may not ever understand what he had accomplished today. That is who he is and part of his autism. We can't express our gratitude enough to all those who have supported us. It is very moving to see the support everyone has given (cheering for us at the best water stop ever and at the finish line), and it served as the real motivation for us during the race. This was an incredible achievement, and we hope it serves as an inspiration for your continue supports.
Wallace will also run his second Marine Corps 10k on October 28th