Monday, May 5, 2008

A Second Thank You

Some of your emails bounced back.  So I’m posting our Autism Walk thank you here also.

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As is often the case with non-profits, they aren’t the most technologically savvy organizations. That said, we just got the total list of donations for the autism walk, so this is the big thank you/group hug email.

In 2008 we raised over $4500.00.  As they during NPR pledge drives, this was in large part due to you on this email. 

In all seriousness let me get a bit sappy here -

Demetrius was diagnosed as autistic in 2003. As many of you who regularly read the blog,  you know how this condition impacts our lives.  You’ve been on the end of tough discussions on the phone, you’ve left me alone and allowed me to close my door and work quietly in the office, and you’ve inspired me to keep going, keep smiling, keep my head up on the toughest of days.

Lets be real also, its taken a few years off of both of our lives as we have had years of working with a little boy who simply didn’t respond to questions, had language that was all but unintelligible (when he did try to communicate) and couldn’t complete many of the simplest of tasks.

Today, well, today Demetrius is a mainstreamed first grader; going on to second grade; who sings to himself Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s out for the summer’ as we get closer to the end of the school year; who ate yesterday at the Iron Movie with his friend Christopher: two buckets of popcorn, a sour gummy worms, beef jerky and washed it down with a lemonade.  He attempts to play soccer (he gives it a try, it’s all we can ask), he puts caterpillars in his sister’s purse and he spends a lot of time trying to figure out the pass code to the parental controls on the TV.

What I’m getting at is that in so many ways, he’s emerged from his shell and is very much a regular little boy, and we couldn’t be prouder of what he’s become. 

But he does have a long way to go, and will always have it tougher than we do just getting through the trials and travails of every day life.

The dollars you donate don’t directly go to helping Super D, today.  Maybe some day a ‘cure’ or a better methodological approach will be developed to help these kids, and adults, live in our world more, and less in their own. That’s why we harass you for money, that’s why we drive to midtown at 6:45am on a Saturday morning to walk (or try to walk, as it were the case this year). Yes, Autism right now is cause celeb, but having gone through the heart wrenching pain, let me tell you it is very real, and very hard.  And lots of families, and children have it worse than we do, and this money goes to help them, their families, their therapists, their doctors and medical researchers.

But it isn’t about just the money, it is the fact that each of you were willing to vest a bit of yourselves in the cause of this little boy, that makes our days a little brighter, our smiles a little wider and our hearts a little warmer.  So think of your gift as doubled then, the money and the hope that it brought to the Grassos.

Again, we thank you for everything,

Jerry & Kim
 

Posted by Jerry in 14:05:23 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Autism Walk Photos

Well, there is always a risk in doing an event in April, and that risk is rain…and we got it in buckets this morning.  So, we trekked all the way from our suburb of Alpharetta down to Midtown Atlanta, only to get dumped on.  Now, Demetrius has a ‘rain thing’ and the temperature was dropping, so we decided we had enjoyed half-an-hour of festivities and jumped in the mini-van when the rain wasn’t obviously letting up.  Some folks walked, others headed for their vehicles too.  Here’s a few photos from the event:


The local NBC affiliate did interviews from the event, talking to families and teams all over the place…


View of the festivities looking at the concert stage…


Define a successful event: A bubble guy and autistic kids. I heard the squeals of happiness and headed over to hear what the noise was all about. See above. This pictures doesn’t do this dude justice because behind the girl on the left there are 15-20 auties chasing the bubble he did before this one.  Talk about flapping!


Those with other disabilities came out for the cause.  Inspiring!


Then the rain came, and those with slickers powered through, those without went for cover….


The Grassos/Autism Walk 08


Team Super D, 2008: Back Row/Tonja Philson, Kim, Laura Gossage, Jerry; Front Row/Maya, Harrison Gossage, Demetrius

Posted by Jerry in 20:00:50 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Friday, April 11, 2008

Thank You

Well, tomorrow, here in ATL, we have our autism walk. I want to say thank you so much to everyone who gave us a bit of cash (or more than a bit) for Team Super D. Well, we raised just over $3000.00 this year, and that’s just awesome.

We all have causes in our lives that are important. I try to give my fair share of $20 donations to other causes, but this is the one that affects my life in every single way, every shape, every form…and is in the back of all of my thoughts, every waking moment.

Thank you, and pictures and postings about the walk coming tomorrow.

Posted by Jerry in 23:35:30 | Permalink | Comments Off

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. We had the Grasso grandparents in town (Nonni and Grandpa) and Kim’s sister, Rachel, and her husband, Cam. Full house, full of fun.

Kim’s nephew, Garrett, was throwing the javelin in the NCAA national championship track and field tournament in Charlotte. Not bad for a freshman, eh? So Rachel, Cam and Kim all drove up to watch him toss the stick. Every time they talk about him throwing I think of Monty Python’s javelin catching skit. I know, I have the mind of a 12 year old.

Unfortunately, Garrett apparently got the jitters and did what freshmen do, freeze up a bit. But wow, to be 18 years old and throwing in the national championship, what a rush that had to have been for him. Next year he’ll be a sophomore, have all of this under his belt, and will, of course, win the whole shebang. Don’t know if it will be in Charlotte again for Aunt Kim to go and watch.

Here at Casa Grasso, we attempted to do what we do best – wear out Nonni and Grandpa. This was our Saturday routine:
• Jerry runs with running group
• Shower, give everyone baths, to see Shrek the Third at 10:30 am
• Buy three new pairs of shoes, sneakers for Demetrius, sandals/shoes for Maya
• To Target to buy more toys (grandparents = suckers)
• Lunch
• Home to play new computer games for one hour
• Walk Buddy
• Take kids to swimming pool for two hours
• Home to play more computer games
• Go get pizza for dinner
• Watch Spongebob and play more new computer games (the kids got, like, 7 I think)

Sunday was very much of the same – minus the shopping.

So what was great about this? Well, take away Demetrius’ OCD, “When are we going to Target?” “Now are we going to Target?” “After this are we going to Target?” He was extremely engaged.

And I saw something yesterday that just had me beaming.

At one point, before the kids went to show off for Grandpa how well they ride their bikes, Demetrius was sitting in the living room with some new toys (all Spider Man 3 action figures, of course), and he was doing some imaginative play. I would say watching him, it was more in line with what you would expect of an older toddler, 4 year old, in this respect (Maya’s already done this type of play and is onto more complicated tea parties with stuffed bears, having slumber parties for them, etc…) but he kept at for about 10 minutes. That is a long time for him to entertain himself, and he just sat there and played. I’d love to see more of that, but if you jump in, or start talking to him, he’ll stop and let you start to lead for him…which is absolutely not what I want him to do. Maybe we’ll see a lot more of this throughout the summer.

A couple of funnies from the weekend:
• The fam went out to Buca di Beppo for dinner. Lots of statues Maya noticed of men with their ‘weenies covered by leaves’. She also noted that this form of ‘clothing’ would be ‘itchy’
• Nonni opens the suitcases with toys, she pays for the new pair of shoes for Maya and pays for toys at Target. Demetrius mentioned that he wanted to go to Target again (why not? It’s here, Nonni and Grandpa are here…why not visit the store 3-4 times a trip?) and Maya told him to, “Ask Nonni, she has all the monies”
• You have to wear ‘expensive’ shoes to a wedding. Like you would get at Target or Kohls
• I started to get my stuff ready for work last night and Demetrius told me I couldn’t go to the office, “I don’t have school, you don’t have to go to the office!” Wouldn’t that be nice?

Finally, below is our family picture from the Autism Walk a few Saturdays ago. Again, thank you to everyone for participating. We are very, very grateful for your donations and support…with your help we raised about $3700.

Team Super D..with a little bit of Buddy in the photo….

Posted by Jerry in 15:21:57 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Today’s Autism Walk

This morning I got up at 4am and Buddy and I went for a 5.5 mile run. Usually on Saturdays we get to sleep in until about 5:30am and then get up for running club, but this morning was special.

Kim’s friend Janet showed up at about 7:30 am and we went down to Atlantic Station for the walk. We were all wearing our Team Super D tee shirts. As we got down to the exit from the highway, we couldn’t get off at the exit. Too many cars, mini vans, SUVs idiling to get off for an Autism Walk. Wasting fossil fuels for a good cause.

We had to drive to my office, about a mile away, and walk – to a walk! Kim, Jerry and the kids will sleep well tonight, I am sure. (However, they have wells of energy I do not. They are on their way to swim at this time, while I lounge and blog.)

I was not prepared when we turned into the area where the walk began for what I saw – thousands of people, all in different ‘teams’ tee-shirts, walking. Since we were a tad late (walk from the office) we had to hustle at the back and see all of these people in front of us walking. Many had autistic children, like us, they were walking for…themselves; many orbited those children, whether extended family members (my parents and sister and brother-in-law were walking in Texas) or through professional relationships (therapists, doctors, etc…); many were walking because their company sponsored it (legions of people from UPS were walking) – many because autism has become somewhat a ‘cause celeb’. But they all walked.

Early in the walk we finally found our friends the Carraghers. They walked with us. This felt right to me on so many levels. I think I’ve said before that Demetrius and Joseph Jr. have known each other probably as long as the two of them can remember. Joseph has grown into a seven-year-old boy, with a seven-year-old friend, that is different from him and all the other little boys he knows. Demetrius has played at his house, has played with his toys, has watched his videos, and has periodically, when he is having a good day, played with him (more recently wrestled with him). Joseph knows him only this way, and Joseph walked with Demetrius, at times holding his hand – while Demetrius squirmed due to the noise and discomfort from all the people. But Joseph held his hand.

We chatted as we walked as a small team.

“Excuse me, are you Jerry?”

Me: Yes?

“I’m Christopher’s Dad.”

If you are a reader of this blog, Christopher’s Dad is a recent commenter. They knew me through the tee-shirt we were wearing saying, ‘Team Super D.’ We shook hands. I wished I had a business card on me to share email addresses, and now was not the time to stop walking. Christoper’s Dad: please provide me contact info, when you read this, in the comments section. As soon as I see it, I will take it down and I will then take it off the blog.

Here is a photo of Christoper, and his beautiful family:

Christopher’s Family

The walk ended and the kids wanted to play on some of the bounce houses they had there..too many people. So we went to get our tee shirts and leave.

That was it.

What is my take away? All of these people represent a consciousness that there is something in ‘this autism epidemic’ that affects all us – whether directly like us, indirectly like the Carraghers, or collaterally like the person next to me…that may have to bear the burden of his or her taxes caring for the welfare of an autistic child in the future. This is ‘the start’, and the energy is very high, as we put effort into making autism part of our collective medical consciousness and lobby for govt funding.

What will these walks be like in ten years? Will there even be walks in ten years? I don’t know. But I think the people at Autism Speaks have done a wonderful job here at the ‘start’. I don’t think, personally, that here in Atlanta we could have asked for more.

I thank all of you that took time out of your day to walk with us this morning. You lent your energy to raise awareness for the cause. I thank all of you that took dollars out of your checkbooks to donate through Team Super D to raise money for research — to build the infrastructure in people and places to conduct the research.

This was a good day for all of us that were affected by this. It showed me that we aren’t alone, that we are part of something larger, and hopefully, part of something that is growing stronger.

This was a good day.

Posted by Jerry in 23:28:28 | Permalink | Comments (3)