We are a group of runners with the desire to run for a greater purpose, more specifically to support those affected by autism.
We first ran in May 2014 when our brand new group took on River Towns Half & Full Marathon to raise money and awareness for autism. Each runner made a commitment to raise at least $100. The money they raised covered their race registration and Team CJ shirt with remaining proceeds donated to Geisinger Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute and the Operation Jack Autism Foundation. That year we raised over $7500!
In 2015 we teamed up twice, first in May to run River Towns Half & Full Marathon and then in October to run the Runner’s World Half & Festival. That year we raised another $11,700 for ADMI, Operation Jack, and Camp Emerge!
Again in 2016, I was blown away by this group of people. First of all, for the third year in a row, I didn’t know everyone on the team. I met several for the first time face to face on the morning of the race. My friends are recruiting their friends, who are recruiting their friends, which is great! The more we talk about autism and the services available/ needed, the better. Secondly, the courage, compassion, and enthusiasm displayed by this team is remarkable! Several had never taken on such a distance and instead of being intimidated, they rose to the challenge. Our seasoned runners would attempt PR’s and our out-of-running-for-a-while runners would push their limits. All would raise money and awareness for autism. Collectively our teammates raised over $7600 forGeisinger ADMI and Operation Jack Autism Foundation!
Team CJ is an organization about to embark on a big journey. Before I tell you about that though, I need to tell you a little bit more about the beginning of all of this.
I’m a mom to two beautiful children. They bring joy to my life that I just can’t describe. If you’re a parent though, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. My son is autistic. We got his diagnosis on his fourth birthday in 2013. However, he was 18 months old when I first expressed concerns to his doctor. That means it took 30 months to get a diagnosis despite actively looking for answers.
I’ve said before that this autism journey has changed me, and I would never change that, but I would certainly make the journey easier if I could.
My son is an amazing little boy who has already overcome many obstacles and whose progress gives me tremendous hope for his future. As he grows, he shines a spotlight on the things that we (as a community) need for kids like him and for families like my own. First it was a better way to be seen by the right type of doctor. Then it was having the right support in school. Now its getting appropriate therapy by specially trained professionals. In the future it may be adaptations to participate in extracurricular activities, in learning how to drive, or in job training. This journey could get a little rough.
So back in 2014, Team CJ and CJ’s Resolution Challenge were born. My hope is that we can continue to raise money to support the area organizations that support our autistic loved ones; and that in the process of raising money we’re also raising awareness and talking about autism- what it is, what it isn’t, and most of all, what you can do to help. We talk about awareness and acceptance, but do you really know how to do these things?
Now to return to Team CJ’s big journey. I want Team CJ to be a regionally well-known non-profit organization for autism. I think it’s important to have an organization like this so when someone has a concern about their autistic loved one, there is a resource easily accessible to them. Here is the list of things I think will help us get there.
- File paperwork to become an official 501c3 charitable organization.
- Build a website where all organization information can be easily located.
- Reach out to the region to find autism-related programs in need.
- Help the community develop much needed programs for adults with autism.
- Continue to create and host community events that will do the following: 1). raise funds to support regional autism related programs, 2). create opportunities for families to network and support one another, 3). put autism on everyone’s “radar” so to speak, so people can really be aware of autism and learn how to best be supportive
I’m proud of the work that has been done so far and truly grateful for the outpouring of support. But my son is shining a spotlight on where this journey must now go. I’m ready to embark.