I was privileged to be involved in Milwaukee’s first Team Up! Autism Speaks event this past Saturday at the Summerfest Rock N Sole Run along beautiful Lake Michigan. I took the plunge and signed on with our Team Up! group to run my first half marathon, and for two months worked on fundraising and increasing my miles for the race itself. My oldest son Andy is on the autism spectrum, and I personally appreciate everything that Autism Speaks is about.
Our group consisted of 28 runners from several states, who ran in either the 5K, 10K or Half Marathon races. A good number of our participants were able to attend the pre-race dinner, which followed a private tour at Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee. We enjoyed a catered pasta dinner by Rustico Pizzeria, as well as the ambiance of the historic Miller Inn and good company of our fellow runners and their guests. I particularly appreciated when our teammates each shared their personal stories on how autism touches their lives, and also hearing from those who were getting involved simply because they believe in the cause of autism awareness, research, and spreading the word about help to those who need it.
The next morning dawned cool and rainy, perfect for running (although a little uncomfortable for spectators). The Team Up! cheering section, laden with foam puzzle pieces, cow bells and thunder sticks, had a prominent place just past the finish line. The local media was on hand, and made sure to get plenty of shots of our cheering supporters. When the finish line was in sight, I broke into a sprint and raced past the last cluster of runners to the finish line. I cannot describe the elation I felt as I crossed over and heard all the noise from our group! After 13 miles of relative obscurity among thousands of runners, the wave of support was overwhelming! Not only had I achieved my goal, but I was part of a group whose efforts will go on to working towards even greater objectives within my own community. I am so proud of my fellow Team Up! runners and their fundraising achievements of raising over $20,000, and I look forward to working with them again in the future!