This guest blog post is by Riley Mecimore, a college freshman from Pinehurst, N.C. who created her own 5K race to raise funds and awareness in honor of her brother. Riley’s first fundraising event raised $880 for Autism Speaks!
February 4, 1997. This day, sixteen years ago, completely changed my life and both of my parents’. Not only did I have my first sibling, but my parents also had their first son. As he grew older, we noticed that he acted and responded to things a little differently than the kids around him.
At age 6 Triston was diagnosed with high functioning autism, also known as Asperger syndrome. No amount of research or stories can prepare a family for how much this diagnosis will affect them. Like most autistic kids, he has his really happy moments and his really sad moments, and sometimes these occur at the same time. When he is happy, words cannot describe how special it is to hear his laugh or receive a hug. Sometimes the simpler ones are more special though, like when he asks how my day was, or says how much he missed me when I come home from college. Some of my favorite memories include taking him home from school, and as I am singing the lyrics to whatever song is on the radio, he is quietly changing the volume of the music to an even number while giggling to how tone deaf I am.
However, every school day was not this easy; one of the biggest struggles that we faced through his teenage years was the education system. This includes teachers, staff, and even students that were unaware of the disability that Triston had. Iit was not an act of ignorance, but simply a lack of being informed. After witnessing this for years, I decided that I wanted to raise awareness.
In February 2013, I was a 17-year-old high school senior who enjoyed running. One day during a long run I started thinking of ways that more people could learn about Autism and decided that I should host a 5k (3.1 mile) run and donate all of the proceeds to an organization. I was so excited about this idea that after my run I texted all of my friends, called my parents and only ran into one problem - I had absolutely no idea how I was going to do it.
After making a lot of phone calls, I decided to use a course that one of our local organizations uses for their races. I quickly learned that in order to do this, I had to fill out forms that would give me permission to use the land and other ones that showed it was a certified 5k distance. While filling out these forms, it was decided that the run would be on August 3, 2013.
The months between February and August were spent getting sponsors, and making sure people would actually show up. My final step was to figure out which organization I would donate the money towards. After doing personal research I decided that Autism Speaks would be the perfect organization. With help from many volunteers and local donations, the race was a huge success and I cannot wait to have it again next year. It taught me a great deal of responsibility, and showed me that any goal is attainable.
If you’d like to create your own event to raise awareness and funds for Autism Speaks, email firstname.lastname@example.org.