I miss my dad everyday but especially this Father’s Day. It brings me great joy and comfort knowing we are honoring three special dads through our “Autism On The Go” Campaign, which was established in honor of my parents to address the importance of an active lifestyle by funding recreation, sports and music programs. Like my dad, these fathers have made a special commitment to keep their kids active. To recognize these men, we are giving each of them scholarship money to support their pursuit of recreational and athletic activities for their children.
Jerry Hegarty (Reading, MA) has seen first-hand how an active lifestyle has benefitted his 18 year old daughter Camilla. A long time participant in the Access Sport America program, a DFJF grantee, Jerry told us “Camilla has really benefited from our focus on providing her with an active lifestyle. In the past three years she has lost 25 pounds … but perhaps more important than the physical health benefits, the mental benefits are even greater. She is non-verbal with a fairly ‘short fuse’ and very prone to high levels of frustration and self-injurious behaviors. These destructive patterns seem to lessen quite a bit when she is engaged in an activity and living a health lifestyle. There is a fine line for Camilla between taking a much needed break and falling into a stagnant mindset where her frustration and destructive behavior increase and the only way we have found to manage this fine line is by providing her with lots of activities in her life.”
Bob Parent’s (St. John PLT, ME) sons Matthew (6) and Christopher (3) love living in northern Maine. With acres of trails, their favorite thing to do is ride in the back of their bike trailer while their dad pedals them around exploring. Bob explains “Both of my boys love the outdoors, but since we live in a rural setting, it’s important that we know they are safe and contained while out enjoying their surroundings. The bike trailer has given the boys the freedom to explore places they never could have seen on foot. It also is a wonderful activity for us to enjoy as a family.”
Ken Roberts (Northborough, MA) has always loved skiing. Since the birth of sons Andrew (12) and Ryan (10) who both live their life on the spectrum, the thought of enjoying this sport as a family never occurred to him. Both boys have low muscle tone and struggle with many physical benchmarks. When the opportunity to partake in The Waterville Valley Adaptive Ski Weekend happened this March, he was dubious. But, after eight hours of working with the specially trained instructors, the Roberts family was skiing down a green slope together, not just once, but six times! As Ken explains, “That day was life changing, we never thought something like this would have been possible.”
Happy Father’s Day to these three great dads and to all the other wonderful dads out there who are helping their children on the spectrum live their life to the fullest by recognizing the importance of physical fitness.
All my best,