I will always remember the moment during our 2005 Inaugural Orlando walk. The emcee called “3…2…1…WALK NOW!” From my vantage point in front of the start line, I saw my daughter, Jessica, leading 1100 excited participants, including the 80 family members, friends and supporters who comprised “Team Jessica.” With her younger brother walking next to her, barely big enough then to hoist the Team Jessica sign (handmade by their cousins) over his head, I was taken aback by the overwhelming symbolism of that moment: that it would take everyone we knew and so many more that we didn’t know - indeed, an entire community – to provide the support Jessica would need to meet the challenges that this mysterious disorder would present throughout her lifetime. In short, that moment exemplified the two words that underscore why I walk – help and hope.
In the seven years since I began walking and volunteering, I have been amazed, enlightened and inspired by what help and hope can do for people. And since help begets hope – and vice versa – when I contribute my time to this cause, it always moves me in a positive direction, even when the challenges of autism feel like they have accumulated into a mountain before us. When I walk, when I help, I know that I am contributing – even in a miniscule way – to the change that my family and myriad other families are seeking to alter the course of this disorder. And when I think of that help, multiplied exponentially by every other participant at our walk, then by every participant at all of the other Autism Speaks walks, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of hope. A hope that my daughter will live a life of happiness and fulfillment, a hope that my son will live the same life, enjoying his sister as his friend and not as her caretaker, and a hope that for this generation and for generations to come, we will be able to look back and say that we were there at the pivotal moment when answers were found and lives could be changed - and that such a moment was the result of people making one simple, yet monumental choice - the choice to help.