Exiting the highway we drove right into a standstill. We had no idea what was going on. Why was there so much traffic just off the exit?
A warmth came over me and my heart smiled. It was troops of people waiting to get into the JC Bermudez Park to partake in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. Raul and I looked over at each other and grinned. We were in awe at how many people had made it down to this event on an early Sunday morning in Miami. Most folks don’t roll out of bed until at least after 10a.m. on a Sunday in these parts.
|Raul pushing Gabby in the stroller into the park.|
|Our Family: Raul, Iliana (me) & Gabrielle|
We found parking outside of the park and headed in with baby in stroller, camera in hand and together towards the park. Groups after groups of teams in yellow shirts, red shirts, white shirts with logo’s and sponsorships- trotted their way through the crowd rushing to make it in on time. There were groups with “Team Daniel” in red and there were Toys R Us/Babies R Us employees and families wearing their Walk Team shirts. Children in strollers, others skipping along holding onto daddy’s hand.
The MC on the loudspeaker was welcoming us all and ramping up the attendees. JC Bermudez, Mayor of the City of Doral took the podium and thanked everyone for supporting Autism Speaks and coming out to an exciting family event. There were vendors, give-away’s, Miami Heat dancers performance, Hip Hop Kidz performances and countless of bounce houses and even a couple of traditional fair rides.
However, what made the greatest impact was the child with Autism who was given the microphone and the opportunity to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at commencement. He held every single person’s full attention. A pin could be dropped and it would be heard. As he belted out the tune, all looked on and stood still in silence. It was amazing to hear this little boy recant each word with so much effort, passion and enthusiasm. He did his best to reach the high notes in the melody courageously. Needless to say, he received the loudest applause of any presenter this morning. I for one looked over at Darlene Perez, a fellow HMIP Team member, and with our jaws dropped at his incredible try- we cheered him on loudly.
|Darlene, Myself & Gabby- making a funny face!|
|The HMIP Team, February 27th, 2011: Darlene, Gabby, Iliana (me) & Burnise|
Walking over to the paved path around the park, we took our place within the rainbow of tee shirts and began the 2 mile walk around the park. It was hot and sunny but eventually the wind picked up and the morning began to cool off despite of the afternoon hour. Darlene Perez, Burnise Machado, Raul, Gabrielle and I gathered and took our time along the walk as we chatted about what brought us there that typical-weather-Miami morning.
|HMIP Darlene Perez & Gabrielle|
Darlene, who raised over 360 dollars with the support of her friends, co-workers and loved ones, was sharing with us how she came to find out while fundraising that an old friend/co-worker has a son with Autism. She was surprised to find this out but you can see that she felt great all the more to do what she could to help. Darlene also shared that a current co-worker has a son who was diagnosed with Autism, as well. She told us a little about the in’s and out’s that this police officer/friend overcomes on a daily basis in interacting with his son. Generally, he tells her that every day is a challenge but that they both make the best of each day.
When I gathered these lovely ladies to join our walk team, neither of us were directly affected by Autism. But as the month of February rolled on, and donations rolled in, friends came forth and revealed their personal stories as to how Autism has impacted their families.
Burnise and I specifically, talked about how difficult it was than what we thought it would be, to fundraise for a charity that benefits children and their families. We discussed how so many of our loved ones didn’t know much about Autism and weren’t interested in making a kind donation. Not many of our mommy-friends, teacher-friends or many at all, joined our efforts. We were both a bit disappointed, to say the least. Yet we agreed that the support of the few that did contribute by sharing our team’s donations page link and most importantly, those who kindly donated- kept us motivated!
|Gabrielle walking with her adopted- Tia Darlene|
|Darlene with Gabby, Burnise & Raul stuck with the stroller LOL|
After a go-around the park, teams were invited to join in on the festivities and the entertainment performances began. Raul, Gabrielle and I stood by and watched the various dancing troupes take the stage and wow us with their top dancing skills. It was incredible to watch these children do their thing on stage in front of so many. Gabby couldn’t help herself and joined in by clapping and dancing around as Raul and I followed her lead.
|Gabrielle singing, clapping & dancing along to the live music.|
Countless teams settled into their tents and pulled out the stops. Hamburgers and hot dogs grilling, footballs were tossed around and the lines at the bounce houses and rides grew larger as more people finished the walk around the park. There were hundreds of people at the Walk this day. I thought about the people who were not able to attend last minute and realized how much larger the turn out would have been. Beyond amazing!
A little about Autism and Autism Speaks
“Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified), Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders.” – http://www.autismspeaks.org
“Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. Since then, Autism Speaks has grown into the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and look forward to continued successes in the years ahead.”
Researching about Autism to create awareness and support for this cause in February, I found out about its prevalence and underfunding- both public and private.
Now a days, one in every 110 children is diagnosed with Autism. Of that, one in every 70 boys is diagnosed with Autism. Treatment for Autism is intensive. The child and their family, joined with professionals, undergo therapy. There is hands-on training for the parents and siblings on how to cope, adapt and interact with their loved one who has Autism.
Autism is one the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States today. It receives less than five percent of research funding from our communities and our government versus less prevailing but equally as important childhood diseases.
|Hip Hop Kidz Dance Troupe performing to a melody of today’s music|
Our local walk day has passed but it is not too late to help contribute. We encourage you to visit http://www.autismspeaks.org and support their efforts to create awareness and fundraise to help children with Autism.
Click Here to Donate
The HMIP Team surpassed our initial goal of $500! We are looking forward to your continued support in our efforts to participate in upcoming philanthropic walk/run events as a team.
The principle of my 2011 Initiative and the mission statement for the HMIP Team is “To make a change in ourselves as well as our community while leading healthier & more positive lives as mothers and women.” We do not necessarily endorse any charitable organization but rather encourage the efforts to make a positive impact in the lives of children.
To learn more about this Walk event, to find local dates or to know more about Autism and Autism Speaks, please follow the link below:
Come back to “The Whole Shebang!” this week and be among the first to join us in our philanthropic efforts to create awareness and support another cause through out the month of March 2011.
Iliana Taleno Swain is Miami’s up and coming Social Events Planner. She is an expert in designing events that create everlasting impressions. Former Visual Brand Marketing Manager in the Fashion Industry she specialized in VIP Client social events. As a mom-preneur herself, Iliana is now helping busy housewives, moms and professionals create impressive events. Trust her training and expertise to design an incredible event that will impress you, your guests and on occasion, your clients, too! Contact her today for a complimentary Event Consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org | 305.482.1211