This blog post is by Amy Huizenga, who is a part of the New Jersey Shore Walk.
On June 22, 2010 my son was diagnosed with autism. He was 28 months old. The lives of the then 5 of us were forever changed. I was 36 weeks pregnant with our 4th baby. My oldest of the 4 kids was just 3 and a half. Our kids are now 5,4,3 and 2. Bradley is our 4 year old.
Since then, my view of the world and the people in it has changed. Autism is a world I knew nothing about, now I am immersed in it. I see things through my Autism goggles, a gift I didn't ask for but have got used to wearing. I see everything differently. I now see things through Bradley's eyes. I have a whole new vocabulary. I am more in tune with my own Sensory system, since mine is a lookout for his. Autism doesn’t come alone, it brought Bradley friends like Epilepsy and Anxiety Disorder. We immediately poured on the services and have taken everything we can get. He gets up every day and does things that I know are challenging for him, that are difficult and that are scary. Some days are better than others. I’m so proud of the progress he has made. I know he is going to do great things. Bradley is an amazing guy, he is silly and loving. He loves his brother and sisters. He loves to dance and play soccer. He is my cuddle bug. He is the bravest person I have ever met.
A year after he was diagnosed we started Team Bradley, we walked for the 2nd time in the New Jersey Shore Walk Now for Autism Speaks on September 29, 2012. We raised almost $6,000.00 and had 72 total walkers. We had 3 fundraisers throughout the year. We have found amazing support from our local community. We had 13 sponsors from our local businesses whose names were printed down the back of the T-shirts and many that donated prizes for a raffle at our fundraiser. My husband, Rich, and I worked hard to put it together- to make sure our T-shirts were perfect, the ‘goodie bags’ we handed out with our sponsors promotional info were assembled and that there was a tent with food and drinks for our team members. We had a brilliant new logo made this year. Billy,our 5 year old son, wore a ‘Captain Billy’ shirt and was very proud of his important role. It is very moving to see our friends and family come out to support our son, our family, and all kids with Autism. We had new walkers and ones who walked with us for the 2nd time this year. There were people on our team I had never met. We were most honored to have 2 other kids on the Spectrum on our team. I love seeing all the teams with their unique t-shirts unified and having a good time. It is a special day.
1 in 88. People may hear it or read it but it isn’t REAL until they SEE it.
After the walk this year, I was reflecting on the kids and thought that people need to SEE them, to hear what their parents say about them. To see how beautiful, sweet, smart, loving and brave they all are. I started the Team Bradley Facebook page in April to show what we are up to and spread Autism Awareness. I decided it was the perfect vehicle to show the world OUR kiddos. I put a post up asking for photos and the response has been outstanding, I have posted over 100 photos so far. I love getting the pics and posting them. Putting faces to the numbers makes it REAL. 1 in 88 is REAL. I will post the pics as long as they come. ( I will post Halloween pics, Holidays, achievements or any other big news pics.) I will never stop posting them. We are all in this together. 1 in 88 Can’t Wait!
Please visit the Team Bradley Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TeamBradleyNJS