By Bernadette Jarosz
As a Marine Wife and mother of triplets, one with Autism, the emotional and financial challenges of raising a child with Autism are very personal for me. My husband is a Marine and recently returned from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. We had some challenging days while he was gone. That’s for sure! And I needed my friends and family to help me through that the long deployment. Many of our military families also move every two or three years, and establishing services at each new duty station is difficult for the family with special needs and coverage of care is often limited for individuals with autism.
Recognizing the extraordinary responsibilities our military families shoulder today, ACT Today! for Military Families works to help lighten the load for families impacted by Autism. Military families can apply for grants to help defray the out of pocket costs associated with Autism care and services and feel supported and cared for even though they are separated from their friends and families. So when my good friend Karen told me that we were doing a 5k/10k race to benefit ACT Today! for Military Families, I said, “Let’s Do This!”
Am I a runner? No, not really. I don’t have a runners body…it is more like a plus sized gal on an arctic hike that needs some extra body fat to survive the day. Then there is all of that alone time, oh please, I am an extrovert and I can only take so much of that quiet introspective stuff… jeez.
On April 2nd however, I will be a runner and I will finish the ACT Today! race with a huge smile on my face and most likely tears in my eyes. Pretty cocky for a “non runner type” you say? Not really, when you consider my motivation for this race. Her name is Gabby and she is my 9-year-old daughter with Autism.
Being mother of triplets, a Marine wife, and a volunteer for 3 organizations, I don’t always seem to have enough time in the day. Then I go for a run, and am able to focus on what is really important, Gabby and how I can help her. Sometimes, my days get so jam packed with things on the to do list, that I forget the reason that I am going to meetings and volunteering my time. Gabby has this incredible talent of letting me know what is important and what we should do next.
When I am out for a run, I focus on Gabby and the simple joys that she brings to my life and those around her. She is very sweet and quick to smile. She will hug me whenever I ask her to, and will say a very breathy “Hi Mom”, when prompted. However, my all time favorite is when she lets out a little squeal and takes off running down the hallway flailing her arms with contagious joy. Then at the end of the hall she finishes off the joy run with the deedle dance. If you see me at the ACT Today! run, ask me about the deedle dance and I will be happy to do a free demonstration for you. Gabby keeps me running and focused on how many miles I need to run in order for my body to be ready for the 10k run on April 2nd. You might ask why, if I am overweight and not a very good runner I chose to run the 10k? Simple…because I only have to run 6.2 miles on one day, but Gabby has Autism for a lifetime, so I figure, hey this is easy. We are all incredibly strong and capable of so much if we believe in ourselves. Let’s Do This!
April is Autism Awareness Month AND the Month of the Military Child. Join me April 2nd on Fiesta Island San Diego to run in support of military families impacted by Autism. Run, walk, or volunteer…together we can make a difference!