November 2011

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

by Tim on November 29, 2011

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao-Tzu

Today I achieved something momentous, and I almost missed it. I completed my 1,000th mile since I decided to start running again and taking control of my health in August 2010. I’ve run well over 800 of those miles in 2011, including a marathon in March. Just to give you some idea, a thousand miles is approximately the distance from New York City to Daytona Beach, Florida, and farther than the distance between New York City and St. Louis, Missouri. To which I thought to myself, Holy crap! I can’t believe I did that!

A thousand is certainly a nice round number, but in light of Lao-Tzu’s quote, it means something more to me. Today I completed a circle, and now I get to start a new one.

With over a year’s worth of perspective, I better comprehend what a deep mess I was in last year. You can read all about The Great Burnout, but the short of it is that I was physically and emotionally exhausted and in trouble. It was a real low point in my life. It was either do something or fall apart. I am obviously glad of the choice I made. Little did I know where it all would lead.

I remember very well that August day last year, a couple of days before our wedding anniversary as a matter of fact. I laced up a clunky pair of running shoes, strapped on my iPod, and headed out the door for Week 1, Day 1 of the Couch-to-5K program. It primarily involved a walking warm up, alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, a walking cool down, and beaching myself on the couch after the effort. I felt like I weighed every bit of the almost 235 pounds I was then. I plodded along slowly and completed the workout in one piece. It was a manageable effort, and I felt satisfied. I had started, and that, it turns out, was the first step on an amazing journey.

The workouts got much harder. All I wanted to do was complete the 5K autism run that October with a goal of finishing in under 30 minutes. My knees started killing me. I fell back into a despair. But I knew I couldn’t quit. Much more than a 5K was on the line. I was on the line. I told my body I was taking a few days off, but then it was on, regardless of the pain. I don’t normally recommend running in that much pain, but my situation called for desperate action. I pushed through it, completed my training, and eventually finished that 5K in 28:52, with a knee that looked rather like a large grapefruit. I didn’t care. I felt like I was coming back for good.

One thing led to another. My runs got longer. Then one day while on a long run, in a fit of pique, inspiration, or sheer insanity – or all of the above – I decided to set the biggest goal I’d ever thought about going after. I decided to complete a marathon three months from that day. This past March, eight-and-a-half months after I started running again, I crossed the finish line and completed my first marathon.

It is true what they say. The finish line of your first marathon is a transition line for your entire life. You cross over, and your life is never the same again. And it hasn’t been. It showed me that if you keep taking one step after another, anything is possible.

That’s what the J-Man first taught me. His life and growth are a series of steps – some small, some enormous leaps – each hard-won. No particular one may be all that glamourous or noteworthy all by itself, but when slowly but surely added together, they create magic. This is one of the wows of autism. And for me personally, I’ve discovered this is one of the wows of life itself.

I have tried to apply what our J-Man has taught me to my health and fitness, to my work, and to my life. It’s working. I think I get it now. I may be a slow learner, but I have an excellent teacher.

I feel more confident in adding new and harder running goals, working to get our lives in better order, and growing my work and hopefully my income, too. I feel like I have some idea what the heck I’m doing now. Our J-Man showed me the way to believe again.

There’s no magic plan here for you to follow. There’s no checklist to fill out and work through. It’s not quick or easy. You can’t make an infomercial out of it. You most likely won’t get results any time soon, but you will get them. You just decide what your heart wants most, and you go get it. You go outside your proverbial or literal front door, you take a step, then another, and you don’t quit until you get there. There will be setbacks and detours, you will often doubt whether you can do it, but if you keep your eyes on the goal and never quit, you will get there.

I made that journey of a thousand miles. It taught me enough lessons to fill a book. And now I get to begin another journey. Where it will take me next will be beyond anything I can yet imagine. I know it. So today I take that next, single step.

So go take your step. Don’t wait for anything. Right now. Go.

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After So Long, I Believe It Now

by Tim on November 21, 2011

Speak your mind — even if your voice shakes. – Maggie Kuhn

Our J-Man is starting to string syllables together. Not many, but he’s doing it. He’s slowly but surely doing it without prompting. It rarely exceeds three or four halting words, but he’s doing it.

This feels like our version of the moon landing.

After so long doubting that he would ever really talk, as I was pulling into the driveway the other morning, for the first time something struck me. I started crying in the car. I believe it now. I really believe it. He’s going to talk, and he’s going to tell us about wonders we never imagined possible.

Even if he never did talk, would it change how dear he is to me, how much I love him, how much I will cheer for him, how much I will fight for him, how awesome he is and will be? Not one bit.

But I see how hard he works at trying to communicate verbally. I see him get so frustrated and upset at being unable to get his point across. I want to know how he feels, what he thinks about, how he sees the world. I want desperately to find some way to unlock his voice. I don’t care if that’s via his voice box, an iPad, or something else. But I feel him trying to show us how much he wants to figure out how to use his own voice. The more Dale Jr. talks, the more amazing things I realize he has to say. And I feel more like a failure as a parent that I haven’t found a way to help our J-Man do the same.

Recently he has been scripting some. He’s stringing together sounds, syllables, and approximations to repeat things he hears, often from kids’ shows he likes such as the “Here’s the Mail” song in Blue’s Clues and the intro song to Pinky Dinky Doo. These are motivators for him, and we are all about those especially since so little historically has been a strong motivator for him. They are familiar, they give him something to focus on, he can use them to practice sounds, and most of all, they make him happy.

I know we all have kids spanning the entire communication spectrum, so to be clear, he’s not suddenly uttering these crystal clear sentences. Some words are shortened – some to the point they sound like rapid, breathless speech. Some of his syllables vary greatly in length and use stresses you aren’t used to hearing. His inflections at the end of words may be all over the place, though they sound almost melodic. But you know, it doesn’t matter how he does it because there’s no one ‘right’ way. This is the purest music to us.

We were talking with his speech therapist recently, and we were all rejoicing that he’s started experimenting with these inflections and different intonations. He’s trying to close off words and say all the sounds in the word, not just the first syllable or two. He works so hard to get it all out, and now he’s staying with it longer and trying to finish the words he starts. He’s known for his clipped, monotone syllables when he does speak. He’s creating his own verse now with rhythm, tone, and meter all his own, and he continues to experiment and improvise.

What he’s doing now sounds like jazz. No, it is jazz.

He experiments with the notes. He is unbound by the stress and unstress of our so-called speaking. He is finding his own way. He is making it up and discovering it as he goes along. We can’t make his mouth, tongue, throat, and lungs make the sounds. He is the musician here. We can try everything we can think of, but so much of this is his journey of discovery. And he’s doing it.

His syllables sway and dance haltingly like middle schoolers at their first dance. He takes verbal steps slowly, carefully, daringly like a toddler, but he keeps at it, laying out one syllable after another. He lines them up like whirling dervishes, dreamy sloths, or slippery snakes, not going where he wants them to yet, but indeed they are going somewhere exciting.

And like a crossword, enough clues are now filling in that it seems bit by bit to be getting easier for him. Eventually there’s a tipping point where the momentum shifts in your favor. Maybe, just maybe, we’re finally there. Slowly but inexorably, it’s happening.

He sees everything around him, feels entire constellations of emotions, has wants and needs, has opinions and ideas, and has untold riches to share with the world. He may experience some or all of these things very differently than most of the rest of us, but that’s what so wonderful about it. What he sees and feels and thinks is unique in all the universe. I want him to be able to share that with whomever he wishes to.

And now these little rays of sunshine are poking through. It’s going to happen.

I see his face beam when he does get the words out. The light bursts forth from every pore in his face. I see his whole body rejoice when he is heard and understood. If there is anything that makes my heart sing more than seeing this in one of our children, I don’t know what it is.

And most of all I see it in his eyes. He now believes it, too. It’s going to happen.

I want this as much as anything. I want him to believe in himself. I want him to know that he can find a way to do whatever he seeks to do, no matter how long it takes. Forget however long it takes anybody else. I want him to know that doesn’t matter. This is his journey of exploration and discovery. He may have to take paths less travelled, or ones not travelled at all. He can blaze his own trail through sheer force of will. There’s magic out there to be found.

I remember all the days trying to get more than ‘kuh’ out of him (the sound that once meant anything and everything). It took months of work day in and day out to get just one new sound. I remember having no idea how he’d ever find ways to communicate and how we’d ever be able to help him tell us what he wants, needs, and thinks.

But slowly and surely over these years, it’s happened. One syllable at a time, he has pulled himself up this Super Everest. I’m still not sure how all this will turn out, but he’s made a believer out of me. He has that effect on everyone.

After so long, I believe it now. And we get to spend the rest of our lives discovering everything he has to say. How amazing is that?

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I was asked by Help! S-O-S for Parents to be part of a team to review Pajaggle, a new game for ages 3 up. To access all reviews, please visit Pajaggle: A Blogger Review. My review follows below.

Their web site describes it as “Pajaggle™ (pa-jag-gul). The game that thinks it’s a puzzle.” And at one level, that’s essentially all it is. But really it’s a lot more than that, and I thought it was a blast. I was asked to consider particularly whether I thought Pajaggle was appropriate for autistic children. On that point, I’d say “it depends”, with some explanation below. But first, let me answer “What the heck is Pajaggle?” in my own words, especially since it will help me explain how I think it would work with autistic children.

Pajaggle has 61 pieces that you place into their respective slots on the Pajaggle board. That’s really it in a nutshell. But it’s deceptively challenging. Many of the pieces look similar to each other, and the variations between them can be very subtle. The spaces on the board for the pieces to slot into are an exact fit. And I really mean ‘exact’. In many cases, you’ll think you found the correct piece, but you didn’t. It’s not unusual to try to stick a piece into a slot, figure out it’s the wrong one, and then it gets stuck (or ‘Pajiggled’ in game lingo). Thankfully, they provide a separate doohickey that serves to pop pieces out of slots with little fuss (not surprisingly called a ‘Pajiggler’).

Here’s where they kick the complexity up another notch. Some of the pieces have slots within them for another piece to fit into. So some pieces just by themselves don’t actually fit into any slot on the board. They fit within another piece, which then fits into a particular space on the Pajaggle board. When I told my wife that as we were filling in the board together the first time, she said, “Oh, [expletive deleted]. Seriously?” We both laughed.

If you want to time yourself, Pajaggle comes with a digital timer. The first couple of times I solved the board, it took me forever. I was glad I didn’t time myself as I didn’t need that mark against me that day. But you know you’re going to use the timer eventually because you can’t resist, and it’s essential to the competitive, multiplayer games.

Admittedly the sample size of autistic children I considered in thinking about this review is pretty small, but I did talk with a couple of teachers along with some parents and we couldn’t think of any autistic kids we knew under age 7 who would be able or willing to sit and solve an entire Pajaggle board on their own or even with help. That said, if you gave them a partially filled in board and had them fill in the rest, that would be an option for some of them.

Our J-Man (who is 6, by the way), would mostly just stare at the board not really knowing what he’s supposed to do with it, or he might just line up or spin the pieces. We’d need to figure out how to structure it, which is hard to do with that many pieces.

So, its 61 pieces seem like too many for most younger kids. Perhaps if there were versions of the board with half that many pieces, and those pieces differed from each other a bit more than they do now, I think they’d be on to something for the younger kids.

If I could sum up in one sentence which kids I do think would respond well to Pajaggle, it’d be this. If your child enjoys puzzles and has a good attention span for them, has strong recognitions of shapes, can detect subtle differences between similar objects, and can do puzzles of two or three dozen pieces or more, then Pajaggle seems like an obvious choice to me.

This is one of those games that both parents and kids can enjoy, too. I thought it was a blast. If you dislike visual puzzles, then you might not care for Pajaggle, but otherwise I think most people would find it fun. It’s quick enough to do – somewhere between a few and somewhat more than a few minutes – versus spending hours or days working a jigsaw puzzle. Think of it like a quick brain pick-me-up if you play on your own. The possibilities for fast-paced multiplayer games are plentiful. Not surprisingly, we’re not party people, but I can see this being a great game for get togethers.

If you know of a child who likes puzzles (especially if their parents do too!), then I think Pajaggle would make a great gift. At $30, it might be a little spendy for some, but it’s fun and the variety of games and activities you can do with it to me make it a good value. You can purchase Pajaggle on their web site at http://www.pajaggle.com.

Disclosure: I received this game for free for purposes of this review.

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Letter to a Struggling Parent

by Tim on November 15, 2011

To my friend and fellow wanderer in this wilderness,

I wanted to write you this letter because I know you’ve been clinging to the end of your rope, digging your fingernails into jagged holds until they break and bleed, desperate to not fall. I know you’re so damn tired you can hardly stand anymore. I can’t imagine how scared you are every time you leave the house wondering whether this is the time he gets away and never comes back.

I know the bills wash up like tsunami waves against your doors and sometimes all you have until you get another paycheck is the change lying around your house and what little room is left on your credit cards. I know what you once had but gave up because that’s what you knew had to be done to be the parent he needs you to be. I know the heartache and hurt seeps up out of the ground nearly every day threatening to drown you and all you love.

The fact that you are still here is a testament to your strength. You are relentless even when you are on the ground exhausted. The ragged marks where you clawed the ground, the tracks where your knees dragged, they proclaim the tenacity in your heart. When everything screams at you to quit, you don’t. Every time you thought you couldn’t take any more, you bore down and kept fighting. You are the lion protecting her young. You are kind and generous, sometimes to the point of giving away too much of yourself. Yet when the odds pile up against you, you know how to rip the f&$#ing heart out of life and stomp on it.

You inspire me. I wanted you to know that.

I know that doesn’t help you all eat or pay bills. I know nothing I have said or could say will change much. But I wanted you to know that you are enough, just like you are right now. And you will be enough for whatever lies ahead.

I know you likely don’t believe this, but we believe in you. You inspire many. Many of them – the ones who know the goodness and strength of your heart – would walk to the very edge of doom and beyond with you.

I am not saying all this to blow sunshine up your shorts. That’s not my way, nor is it yours. I can’t take any of this heartache and struggle away from you. I can’t say when or if it will ever stop. We can stand with you no matter what, but no one can stand in your place. This is your cross to bear and ours. There are many steps in this journey we each have to make on our own. For that I am sorry. I would fix it if I could.

I want with all my heart to tell you all of this will turn out OK. I wish I could tell you all this wandering in the wilderness will end someday and we’ll arrive in some land – promised or something else – where we can stop being afraid all the time. We know the only promise is the one we’ve made and strive to make again every day to our children, our families, and ourselves, and somehow this has to be enough.

I know you don’t believe this either, but you kick ass. That’s your gift. You have plenty of others, but every wonderful talent you have feeds off that. You’ve stared down hell and walked on. You’ve picked yourself up a thousand times. I know you will keep doing it as often as it takes. And every time you do, your generosity never wavers. On determination, guts, and compassion alone, you will make it.

I know you have to face all this while dragging the accumulated burdens of the years behind you. But know that you are a survivor. No matter how many times that challenges and circumstances have knocked you to the ground, you have been and will always be a survivor who stands, fights, and kicks butt.

Regardless of what it takes, you are enough. And we are forever your friends in the journey.

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A while back, we were at a crisis point with our J-Man’s sleep. It would take him 2-3 hours to go to sleep at night, which usually resulted in him going to sleep between 10-11PM. He was completely unable to calm himself down at night. We’d look on the video monitor, and he was essentially doing the equivalent of breakdancing in his bed, bouncing off the sides of the bed and up and down on the mattress. He was hollering, squealing, and screeching a lot, typically the sounds of being overstimulated and too overloaded to relax at all. Eventually he’d pass out from exhaustion and sleep. This was affecting everything from school to life at home.

He never has been a great sleeper, to put it mildly. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was 18 months old, and even then we endured long stretches where he’d get up at least once or twice a night or get up really early. There were countless nights where he wouldn’t go to sleep unless we were in the room holding him. We went through long periods of it taking herculean efforts just to get him dressed and ready for bed, let alone get him to sleep.

It started getting better, and we got to where with some confidence that we could expect him to make it through most of a decent night. Then we hit that patch a while back where he was just completely unable to put himself to sleep until he passed out from exhaustion. He was doing poorly at school and at home, he was unable to regulate himself much at all during the day because he was too tired to cope, and of course we were all on the edge of insanity. It was a really grim time around here.

We knew we had to do something and soon. If you aren’t getting sleep, everything else will go to hell. Sooner or later, you will break. We didn’t know what we should do, but we were ready to consider just about anything at that point.

One of the things you won’t see me do much is talk about or advocate supplements. I personally take a typical assortment of things (e.g., multivitamin, fish oil, probiotics), but I take the supplements market with a lot of skepticism. The rigors of testing and science in general are regularly missing when it comes to these largely unregulated products. We give our J-Man much the same kind of things: multivitamin, probiotics, calcium (since he eats almost nothing dairy or anything else with calcium in it), and a green superfood powder that is about the best we can do right now for vegetables since he refuses to eat them. It’s not the same as real food, but it’s the best way we can improvise at the moment.

All sorts of people gave us advice about pills, supplements, and medications, many of which I found rather dubious. So that’s the perspective we brought with us when looking at our J-Man’s sleep difficulties. Bottom line is that we knew we had to do something or we were all going to go crazy. Sleep is the foundation for everything in daily life, and no one was doing well without it.

I’m not really spoiling the plot to jump ahead and say that we settled on using melatonin, which has worked well for us. Before we entertained trying something like melatonin or something in prescription form like a sedating-type mood stabilizer, we tried everything else we could think of. We aren’t opposed to medications by any means, but since our J-Man is minimally-verbal, it’s really hard to know what effects medications (or much of anything we do) specifically have.

I don’t like experimenting without some means of understanding the effects of what we do. I’m a pretty analytical type. I like knowing how things work and why. I bring this sort of process to bear when we attack problems like sleep.

Here are non-supplement/non-medication things we tried over the years that worked to varying degrees. I do think it’s worth experimenting with these and similar techniques before giving your kids any supplements or medications.

  • Structure your nighttime routine. Do the same thing every night when getting ready for bed as predictability itself is often calming.
  • Institute a standard time for bed. This is true for most kids and adults whether they’re on the spectrum or not.
  • If your child likes water, try a nighttime bath. A nice, warm bath can be very relaxing.
  • Look in your child’s bedroom for sensory violations, and don’t forget the fabrics they wear to bed. If anything seems bothersome to your child, eliminate it and see what happens.
  • Try a white noise machine if any sudden noises wake your child or keep them from going to sleep. Many find white noise machines calming regardless.
  • Look at diet, particularly in the afternoon and evening. Are they eating things that could keep them awake (e.g., spicy food, high in fat), eating a lot before bed, or drinking things that inhibit sleep (sugar or caffeine)? Are they allergic or sensitive to foods or drinks that would then upset their sleep? Are they experiencing silent reflux?

Be prepared for these changes to be a battle at first, but stick with it. One or more of them may pay off. Also don’t forget that if your child gets out of bed if they can’t sleep, make their room safe. Sleep deprivation can be very agitating.

If all this fails or if it stops working, consider these medication type interventions. We started with melatonin, which is an over-the-counter sleep supplement rather than what I’d consider medication. It has proven sufficient for us right now. It may not remain so, and we know that. When or if the time comes for us to adjust what we do, we will attack the problem then.

The first few days didn’t go too well, but that did pass. This isn’t unusual. At first, he’d wake up in the middle of the night, and it was really unpredictable about what would happen after that. He might go back to sleep after a while, or he might have just stayed up for good. We had this sense “Oh, crap” feeling about it when all this happened. We worried that we were trading off him taking forever going to sleep for him going to sleep quickly but waking up at 3AM – essentially the same amount of total sleep shifted backwards three hours. Thankfully after a week or so, things stabilized. He was going to bed pretty quickly and getting up within reason of a normal hour. (6:30-7:00 AM plus or minus)

Some parents we know have reported undesirable side effects that don’t go away, though. One reported that their child had night terrors upon taking it that went away when they stopped. Others have said the problem of time shifting their kids’ sleep (going to bed earlier and getting up earlier) rather than getting more sleep didn’t go away. Some parents found their child got more and more resistant to the effects of melatonin as time went on. Our J-Man seems to have had a more unusual side effect. His bowel movements changed for quite a long time, though now they are getting closer to normal. I can’t say for sure if it’s from the melatonin or why it happened, but it seems likely they’re somehow related. This hasn’t proved a big deal for us, though.

This past week, he has been getting up very early again – about 5AM. We can attribute a lot of this to the time change, which is always the bane of our existence. We have started to wonder whether the current dose of melatonin isn’t working as well, but we’re taking a wait and see approach about that.

Most everyone starts with the 3mg dose. Melatonin is available at most big box and drug stores and is very inexpensive. I know some have bumped up to 5-6mg and/or have ended up supplementing it with a prescription medication. The 3mg remains pretty effective for us. I’ve heard mixed reactions to time release melatonin, some saying it works out that the dose is never strong enough to get or keep them asleep.

Melatonin is definitely one of those “your mileage may vary” products. It is generally considered very low-risk, so as experiments go this should be one you can do with less anxiety. However, for children under age 5, I’d suggest being more cautious and going over this carefully with your pediatrician, which really you should do regardless. I don’t know what the minimum age is – or if anyone knows – but as a rule, the younger the child the more careful you should be.

[Edit: 11/14/11 - The day after I posted this, I saw this article "Genetic studies probe sleep hormone’s role in autism" about a study finding much lower concentrations of melatonin and the enzyme that produces it in their autism group vs. their control group. Very interesting!]

If you try melatonin and it doesn’t work, you may want to consider prescription medication. I know many families who have gone this route to varying degrees of success. Many meds that normally aren’t used for sleep disorders do work for autistic children for reasons no one quite understands. While off-label use of prescription meds is rather common among autistic children, it’s still pretty confusing to parents and medical professionals, too. There indeed are meds primarily for mood disorders that are traditionally used for calming and sleep in neurotypical people that also work for autistic children. You should be very careful with these in my opinion and not use them without caution and close supervision of a qualified medical professional, particularly a child psychiatrist who specializes in autism.

I personally from experience would not recommend using psychiatric type meds under the direction of a pediatrician or general practitioner. I think it’s critical to find a specialist in both autism and pharmacological interventions. These are not meds to screw around with, and it’s rare that pediatricians have the specialized knowledge required to manage medications with autistic children, particularly when many specialists don’t yet understand how or why many medications work with our kids either.

Standard disclaimer that you should always use supplements and medications under the direction of a qualified medical professional. Melatonin is one of the safest and natural options available for helping your child sleep. I wouldn’t say it’s been a ‘wonder drug’ like some make it out to be, but it definitely has given our son a number of improvements to his sleep that have made life easier on everyone. We certainly give it a thumbs up.

[Thanks again to Danette at S-O-S Research for including this post in this month’s Best of the Best series on ”Medications and Their Use with Special Needs Kids” edition. Starting November 15, you can see the entire collection of posts via that link.]

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Dear Friends,

Last year, many of you wonderful, amazing friends donated to help fund our local YMCA’s Camp G.R.A.C.E. (Growth, Recognition, Achievement, Character, Encouragement), a summer camp program for autistic youth. And as an added bonus, you helped turn me orange to celebrate our fundraising accomplishments!

This year, the fundraising needs for the camp are as great as ever. However, I can’t offer hair dyeing or anything else like that as an incentive for you to give this year. I’m hoping you’ll still give even without the hair coloring. As many of you know, we’ve had a chaotic few months at our house. Mary had a very difficult year health-wise including major, emergency surgery and several weeks of recovery. Life is beginning to return to what passes as normal here, but a lot of catching up to do and a number of urgent priorities mean we have less time to raise money for Camp G.R.A.C.E. than I had hoped. The deadline is November 9th!

Our J-Man had an amazing time at camp this past summer! (See pictures below!) We weren’t sure how he would react given that it had been a full year since he was last there, but from the first day we could tell that he remembered what a great time he had as he just walked right in! Those of you who know him know that this is no easy feat for him!

Not only were we so proud of his accomplishments and success at camp, Camp G.R.A.C.E. also proved a godsend to us as Mary’s hospitalization started right in the middle of camp. They bent over backwards to give our J-Man a good, affirming, positive two weeks in the midst of all the chaos going on at home. He flourished there this year, and we have the awesome counselors and staff of Camp G.R.A.C.E. to thank for that!

But all the supports, equipment, and staff necessary for the camp cost money. Camp G.R.A.C.E. provides extra assistance and accommodations to our children because of their many complex needs, with an average of one counselor for every two children. Even after so many generously volunteer their time and resources, it takes significant funding to create and staff a camp with trained counselors to address these needs. Camp G.R.A.C.E. does everything possible to keep costs down for families. From there, they rely on generous donors like you.

During this year’s YMCA We Build People campaign, Camp G.R.A.C.E. needs to raise $20,000 to meet its goal for 2012. Your support toward that goal will mean that dozens of autistic children and their families will be able to afford a camp experience next summer like our J-Man had.

For many of these families, medical and therapy bills and the shaky economy leave little, if any, money available to go toward positive experiences like Camp G.R.A.C.E. And this is heartbreaking. Simply put, your gifts make sending our children to camp possible. Because of you, these awesome kids can have the same opportunity to go to camp and have the same memorable experiences as other children.

100% of your donation goes directly to our youth programs and provides discounts and scholarships for autistic children to come to camp. So you can donate knowing that every penny is going to help kids have a great time at camp next year with amazing counselors who love and care for them so much.

There are two ways you can donate.

  1. You can donate online. I put up a separate page on where to go and how to complete the online form here. If you donate online, make sure you e-mail me that you did. This makes it easier to track our fundraising totals and thank you properly!
  2. You can donate by check or pledge. I can fill out a card with your information on it and turn it in to the YMCA. Just e-mail me at tim@bothhandsandaflashlight.com if you want to do any of the following. To send a check, let me know and I’ll give you instructions and my address. The pledge card also gives you the option to be billed later for your gift or to divide your donation into a pledge of four credit card payments. I’m more than happy to fill the card out for you!

But our fundraiser ends November 9th, so please donate soon! Every dollar makes a difference!

Yours in cheering our kids and helping them feel special,
Tim


Camp Grace 1

They got him to sit on a horse!! And enjoy it, too!!

Camp Grace 2

Having a blast in the water!

Camp Grace 3

Our awesome Camp Director, Brooke!

Camp Grace 4

Counselor extraordinaire Neela with our J-Man! Shhhhh. We think he’s her favorite. :-)

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