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The “Full Life” blog is a place where we celebrate families affected by autism who are living life to the fullest and offer tips and tools for daily living.  We often invite guest bloggers to join the conversation.”This blog comes from one of our Flutie 5K runners and fundraisers, Melissa.  She shares her reasons for running the 5K and her biggest inspiration, her son Ty.


Have you ever thought about forming a team to support the Flutie 5K Run//Walk?


In my experience, the Flutie 5K Run/Walk is a special opportunity to interact with other families affected by autism.  Each team has a backstory.  Families form teams to bond with others with a loved one on the spectrum; to fulfill an urge to raise funds that can help many others; or to rally together to be part of a fun, family event in support of a worthy, local organization. Let me describe the scene four years ago that started me on the road to “Team Ty”


Crowds lined the streets in Natick cheering “Go Team Ty! Go Team Ty!”  My friends and their families held homemade signs of encouragement.  People I didn’t know joined the chorus of cheering.  They had no idea how much that meant to me.  A lump formed in my throat and my eyes welled up with tears. They weren’t just encouraging me — they were rooting for my son.


When Ty was a toddler, he benefited from the Minute Man Arc program serving kids on the spectrum.  I first learned about the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism because of a grant they had awarded the program for a sensory integration and recreational facility.  I knew instantly this was an organization I wanted to support. I could see firsthand how their work was benefiting families affected by autism in my own community.


Ty is 10 years old and, while he is non-verbal, he is a larger than life personality in our home and our community.   Many people who know the Whalen family have Ty to thank for making them our acquaintance.   At school, in the grocery store, and around town, there is no shortage of high fives from Ty.   He has the remarkable ability to inspire a smile.   For a race team, this is the special bond that brings us all together.


And on Sunday, October 4th, Ty will be the inspiration for our friends and family who will rally together to participate in the Flutie 5K fundraising event.  More than 1,500 people participate every year.  And since 1999, the event has raised $1 million to help families with autism live life to the fullest.


When I first ran in the Flutie 5K, I had no idea it would become such an important event to our family and to those in our community.  I started running as a coping mechanism and decided to turn the hobby into a way to involve my community.  My friends and neighbors often asked how they could support our family.  For those of us with kids on the spectrum, you know how challenging it can be to find ways to involve others. The typical parent-sharing tasks of babysitting and carpooling are not possible to hand off because of Ty’s special needs.


Through the Flutie 5K, our community could take action and rally around us.  The Flutie Foundation made it easy for me to get started. I set up the Team Ty fundraising page and posted it on Facebook.  And from there, the team grew.


Over the years, we have had nearly 40 people band together as Team Ty.  Everyone from Ty’s past teachers, his ABA therapist, TCA Alexa and 12-year-old brother Dylan have laced up their shoes to join the race.


I never expected such a powerful response.  It’s a reminder that people want to help out.  They just need a way to do it.


I would encourage you to take a small step and join me at this year’s Eastern Bank Flutie 5K Run/Walk or even consider creating your own fundraising team.  It’s easy to get started, and once you do, you’ll be surprised how it becomes an annual tradition.


To join Team Ty or to start an Eastern Bank Flutie 5K Run/Walk team, visit the Flutie 5K website.  The race will start at 9 am on October 4th in Natick Massachusetts.