Here I go again, my second half marathon with Team Up for Autism Speaks in my hometown of Pittsburgh on Sunday, May 15. I successfully completed the Disney Half Marathon in January 2010, my first endurance event. So why continue? One word…AUTISM.
I never realized the meaning this word would have in my life. In fall 2001, when I applied for and accepted the job with NAAR (National Alliance for Autism Research) to “help plan the autism walk”, I knew nothing about the developmental disorder. No one in my family was affected, and I was the ignorant person thinking isn’t this something like “Rain Man”? I quickly learned about autism through the eyes of parents, teachers, therapists and most of all children affected by the disorder.
I did not receive the textbook or internet education, rather experienced the daily challenges of autism. At the office each day, emails and phone calls poured in from families and autism organizations wanting to support our efforts to raise funds for research. Research means hope. Hope for these families that their child will have a better future and that generations to come will no longer suffer autism’s devastating effects. Teachers and providers walk for their students and clients, to celebrate their differences and recognize each milestone in their development – no matter how small. There is power in this word AUTISM. Power of thousands of individuals who will not let autism silence them.
Every year, these individuals unite to walk for Autism Speaks in communities large and small across the United States. On May 15, I will be running for them. The countless mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, therapists and providers who have become my extended family. Their passion, commitment and dedication to Autism Speaks inspire me each day. AUTISM is now my cause, my fight. I am running to thank them, celebrate them and honor them for the extremely rewarding experiences they have given me over the past 10 years. I am running, not walking so my friends realize this hope that much faster. A hope they so richly deserve to see in their children and loved ones each day.
For more information about the marathon or to make a donation, go to events.autismspeaks.org/pittsburghmarathon/kimniederst.