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For those of you who do not know, my younger brother Thomas is autistic. On Christmas Eve, just after Thomas’s 2nd  birthday, doctors informed my parents that Thomas may be deaf. After extensive testing Thomas could in fact hear and was diagnosed with autism. As you can imagine, this was an extremely emotional time for my family. Although I was young, I can still remember not quite understanding what was going on. I remember my parents talking to me about Thomas, and how Thomas was no different than any other child; he just needed a little extra help to learn and processed things differently.

Throughout the years that followed, I stood by Thomas and watched as he received home servicing with teachers and specialists, attend various types of therapies, as well as the ongoing doctor’s visits. Thomas would never be the man he is today without the incredible support he has received. These services were essential to his success and his future growth. More importantly, Thomas would not be where he is today without my amazing parents, who have been incredible supporters of Thomas and I throughout our entire lives. To this day I have never heard one complaint from my Mom and Dad, no matter how stressful or serious the situation. They have always put Thomas and I first and have been truly amazing examples of what it means to love unconditionally. For that I am forever grateful.

Thomas has been a blessing in my life. Being that he is my only sibling, we have a very tight knit bond, although it may not look “traditional” from the outside looking in. Thomas is obsessed with trains, loves Disney and loves going to the beach every Saturday night during the summer for chicken fingers, fries and an ice cream cone. In addition, he works part time while also being a part time college student and despite all of the obstacles Thomas has faced in his life, he has continued to persevere.

It is hard for me to put into words the immense impact Thomas has had on my life. As I have gotten older, I have gained a far deeper appreciation for all that Thomas has taught me. When I was younger, it was not always easy for me to be there the way I wanted to for Thomas. I was extremely over protective when we were together, and often feared him being bullied and made fun of when I was not around. These were very hard times for me.  Throughout those tough years in middle school and high school, I counted on some of my lifelong friends in Waltham to be there for Thomas when I couldn’t be, and they never let me down. I have an amazing group of friends, who have always acted in my brother’s best interest – sisters, bothers, buddies – simply stated, our extended family.

When I think about all that Thomas has given me throughout the years, I couldn’t be prouder to call him my bother.  He has taught me more than he could ever imagine. He’s taught me not to worry about the little things, and to be present within the moment and to be kind, because you never know what someone else is going through in his or her own life. He’s taught me not to judge a person for their looks or for their social status, but rather to look into people’s souls. Most importantly, he has taught me the meaning of unconditional love, and that nothing is more important in your life than your family and friends.

I know that the road ahead will be very difficult, but I know with all of this in mind I have plenty to motivate me. Anytime I struggle throughout my training, I think of Thomas, I think of my family, I think of all of his teacher’s, aids and our community members who have helped him throughout the years, and I think of all of you who have had an impact on Thomas’s life.  I run for you. I run for all of the other families affected by autism who need the type of support we have received.

– Alex Cucchi, 2019 Dougie’s Boston Marathon Team