On Saturday, August 24th, the Del Mar Racetrack welcomed 20 children with autism and their families to the racetrack's Autism Awareness Day event. The event, held in Del Mar California, started with a VIP tour of the stables. The families, besides enjoying the card of races, played a part in the “Autism Speaks Race”. At the completion of the race the children and their families were invited to the winner’s circle. They had their pictures taken with the winning horse, "Hustlin Nu," and the jockey, Patrick Valenzuela.
Krystal Langford, mother of 9-year-old with autism Andrew Langford, took part in the days festivities wrote a first person perspective on the day:
"Today I celebrated autism awareness at the Del Mar Racetrack with hundreds of other autism families from my area and it was an incredible experience. As a parent to Andrew, a nonverbal 8-year-old with autism, I was able to meet jockeys and trainers and tour the stables as part of a special VIP tour. From there, we went to view the specially named “Autism Speaks Race” and then gave the winning horse, #10 “Hustlin Nu,” and jockey, Patrick Valenzuela, carnations at the Winner’s Circle. It was exciting because the stables that we toured belonged to winning horse, and we happened to greet and do photos with the winning jockey prior to the “Autism Speaks Race.” The jockey told us we brought him luck!
We felt like celebrities, with all the excitement, the photos of the winning horse, the flower presentation, and the cheering! Afterwards, we had the chance to enjoy some great kid-friendly and autism-friendly activities for the rest of the day in the infield including touring the stables, the bounce houses, seeing the horses, and checking out the lighting and ductwork of the stables.
Even though Andrew can, at times, have behaviors or anxiety around large crowds or with novel activities, he did great today and I know this will be a day he and I will always remember. It was the compassion and inclusiveness of this activity for our special needs families that made this opportunity really come to life thanks to Autism Speaks and Del Mar Racetrack."
We thank Del Mar Racetrack for hosting this event and we also thank Krystal, Andrew, and all the families for making it such a great success!