This is a post by Suzanne Lanthier, the Executive Director of Autism Speaks Canada.
In my role as Executive Director of Autism Speaks Canada, I get to meet a lot of inspiring people. It is the best part of the job.
From the families who walk, cycle and run with us from coast to coast in Canada to help raise funds to support our mission, to the service providers and teachers and aides and support workers who are so dedicated to what they do with our kids. From the rock-star researchers who work so hard to find the missing pieces of the puzzle to the incredible corporate partners who have stepped up big tim - check that – HUGE TIME for the autism community here in Canada – Toys”R”Us & Babies”R”Us, KRG Children’s Charitable Foundation, Spin Master Ltd., Mega Brands, Home Restaurants, Scotiabank, Tennis Canada, Peoples and Mappins Jewellers – to name just a few.
Let me tell you about two incredible people who have been my inspiration over the past 3 weeks.
Brad May and Anabelle Langlois.
Brad (“Mayday”) May is a Stanley Cup Winning hockey player – a 19-year veteran of the NHL where he was known as an ‘enforcer’ – you know, one of the tough guys who steps in to, well, enforce. Brad was drafted by Buffalo in 1st round, went 14th overall in his draft year and played for a number of teams in the NHL including the Anaheim Ducks and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Anabelle – along with her pairs skating partner – Cody Hay, won Canadian pairs title in 2008 and placed 9th in Vancouver Olympics and over her wonderful competitive career has finished in top 10 at Worlds six times.
Anabelle is petite, tiny – you might say the complete opposite to Brad the tough guy. Well, looks are deceiving. Despite being maybe 4 foot nothing and maybe 70 pounds soaking wet (a bit of editorial license here) Anabelle is as fierce and as tough and as passionate as hulking hockey star. Truth be told, Brad is really a big teddy bear (but you didn’t hear that from me!).
In Canada, it could be said that we are a bit hockey-crazy. So, our version of the popular US-based show “Dancing with the Stars” is “Battle of the Blades,” where a hockey player is teamed with a figure skater to develop and perform routines with lifts, spins, throw and jumps and win money for their charities. (Not to diminish what Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice and Donny Osmond have accomplished on DWTS but think of their training and then picture them doing the same thing but on skates.)
Not surprisingly, “Battle” draws over 3 million viewers each week from across Canada. Brad and Anabelle have selected Autism Speaks as their charity, guaranteeing us to win at least $25,000 for just stepping on the ice.
But they are not ones to just step on the ice. They are IN IT TO WIN IT. There is a $100,000 at stake for the winning couple.
So.. let’s do the math. $25K guaranteed, $100K possible, 3 million Canadians each week seeing the blue puzzle piece and hearing the word Autism.
To get there, they are working so, so, so hard. I have been lucky enough to see them at practice a few times. Let me tell you, I’m glad it’s them out there and not me.
It is hard. There are falls, bruises, bumps, blood.
But with Brad and Anabelle, there are also lots of laughs and hugs and cheering each other on.
There is a combined twinkle in their eyes that should melt the ice they skate on, and a fierce competitive spirit that will, with the support of the autism community, put them on the winning podium on November 14.
The first skate is this Sunday, September 25 with a 7 hour voting window from 7 PM to 2 AM EST – a Toll-Free phone in vote can be cast as many times as one person can get through by calling 1-877-844-8157. Online, during the 7 hour window, you can also vote by clicking at www.cbc.ca/battle/vote.html
every 5 minutes through a special Facebook application.
Voting is restricted to Canadians by phone and on Facebook but we do know that many of our friends in the US and around the world have friends, families, contacts in Canada, so please reach out to them – ask them to vote! More information can be found at www.autismspeaks.ca