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I'm running the Disneyland Half Marathon for my son with autism!

This Team Up! with Autism Speaks guest post is by Teresa Garcia-Sandoval who is the mother of 3 amazing children, a wife (married 10 years the weekend of the race) and a daughter.  Teresa will be running in the Disneyland Half Marathon. Want to learn how you can run with us? Go to Team Up! with Autism Speaks here. You can help Teresa by supporting her through her donation page here.

My kids are my biggest inspiration, they push me the hardest, waiting patiently, cheering me on to cross that finish line and believing in me so much that I never give up! My husband and parents have supported me through the toughest of times, pushing me to give 110%. I believe this makes me the luckiest person on this earth!

I started running 13 years ago, then stopped running to focus on my family.  Three years ago my sister invited me to run the local "Turkey Trot" with her, so I willingly accepted her invitation and have not stopped running since then.  To this day I have run numerous 5K's, an 8k, and the run Disney Half Marathon last year.  I convinced my sister that we could step up to the challenge and we crossed the finish line together—extremely exhausted, but together.  The experience was so exhilarating!

To combine running and supporting an organization is not new to me. For the past three years I have worked to support a local organization called Hinds Hospice Angel Babies that supports families who have lost a child by providing community outreach, resources and support groups to help parents cope with loss.

This year my husband and brother wanted a challenge and decided this would be an amazing experience. I decided I wanted to run to support a cause near and dear to my family. My parents raised me to “Go Big or Go Home,” so of course I signed up for the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend and the Dumbo Double Dare, which is 19.3 miles. Crazy? I think not. Autism Speaks was the right choice for me because our son was diagnosed a few years ago and it was really hard on everyone in our family. Reading books, blogs, researching Autism Speaks and talking with other parents, we have learned every day about the challenges, obstacles and perseverance that others have faced. It’s a wonderful way to learn and challenge myself to support a noble cause. 

I work as an LVN for Kaweah Delta Rural Health Clinics in the Central Valley of California and my peers know how much supporting Autism Speaks means to me, so they graciously support all I do to raise money. Being my first race supporting Autism Speaks I decided to go all out to raise money.  My family and friends have been AMAZING supporters, providing donations, ideas to fundraise and raffle prizes.  They have supported the sales of candy, healthy snacks and raffle tickets.

Every day I see my son push himself, challenge himself and overcome so many obstacles. I see him grow every day; he doesn't allow a diagnosis to define him. Instead he teaches us every day to believe, to work our hardest and not to allow challenges to get in the way (sob, sob).  He teaches me to never give up. He believes in me just as much as I believe in him.

Running is a stress reliever in and of itself. It allows me to clear my mind, take in the open world around me and push myself to keep on moving.  I run 3 to 7 miles on my lunch time 3-4 times per week, and it allows me to get in some training before my afternoon and maximizes the time I spend with my family in the evening.  In addition, I work with a personal trainer to push myself to the limit. Circuit training, while not my favorite, has been the best thing to help me prepare.

Plans for the future? Well, I would LOVE to raise funds for another Autism Speaks event, perhaps I can push to raise awareness in my community. I hope this will include pushing myself to run a full marathon in the coming year!  I hope and pray others will be just as inspired as I have been to never give up, because no dream is too big!

You can learn more about Team Up! with Autism Speaks and how you can get involved with our runs here!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.