I remember the first time I became aware of the Autism Society of Maine. Jake was 2, and had just been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I, being shy, had talked about it with anyone who would listen, so naturally the whole hospital knew. This was probably mid-March.
I got a call one day at work in the PT department at MRH from someone who had seen an article in the paper about this walk that was to be held in Bangor. I thought, “Hey, why not?”
We called around and gathered the troops. We made up some t-shirts with Jake’s face on them and dubbed ourselves Jake’s Team. We raised $1,300 in 9 days and had rounded up 21 people that first year. I can still remember the look on the lady’s face at the registration table when I apologized for not doing more – but that we were new.
I honestly think Jake’s Team is the reason so many teams wear t-shirts. We started that trend. I swear.
Since then, I don’t think we’ve missed a year. Sometimes we roll big, sometimes we don’t. I’d like to roll very big this year. I’ve set the fundraising goal at $2,500, but I secretly think we can do better.
Beth and I took a course by the ASM to become Autism Information Specialists. This program allows us to travel the region and help people and families affected by autism. Beth attends IEP meetings. We’ve given lectures to schools, families, and organizations. We’ve manned information tables at events all over the state. This is all possible because of the money raised by the ASM at the annual walk.
We have long attended the annual Autism Family Retreat, which was once held at University of New England and is now held at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. It’s a 3-day event during which families of those with autism can gather and share stories, hear from guest speakers, and support each other. For many, it’s a much needed break and chance to feel part of something. Autism can be very isolating. This is possible because of the money raised by the ASM at the annual walk.
Beth and I attended a course in Portland to become Sibshop facilitators. Sibshops are a celebration of the siblings of those with autism. Long after the parents, special schools, and special educators/aides are gone, the siblings remain. Gabriel and Olivia are Jake’s greatest assets. This training and the subsequent sibshobs around the state are only possible from the money raised by the ASM at the annual walk.
The ASM sponsors Camp Summit for two weeks every August in Farmington. It is an amazing inclusion experience that gives those affected by autism a chance to participate in a classic summer camp setting. Though we’ve never been, we’ve heard great stories from those who have. Again, this is only possible because of the money raised at the walk.
There are thousands of flyers jam-packed with information across the state, offering support, insight, and information for curious or in-need people. There is a lending library where members can borrow books for free of charge from Winthrop. They even pay shipping both ways! There are meetings across the state, lectures to attend, people to call, and resources to be had for those who need them. This is a worthy cause. There is no large, faceless corporation taking most of the money for themselves. The people who run the ASM day-to-day do so with one purpose: to improve the lives of those affected by autism.
Please consider donating to Jake’s Team. Or better yet, join the team and walk with us in Bangor on April 30th! Click the WALK link below for information on joining. We’d love to have you.
Here are some links for those looking for information.