Burton – UN declarations and Presidential proclamations have made April 2 World Autism Awareness Day. According to President Obama’s proclamation, autism spectrum disorders or ASDs currently affect nearly one percent of children in the US; the statistics vary, but some numbers say that 1 in 110 children are affected. This effect can be felt rippling through families, schools and societies worldwide. This day is an opportunity to create awareness about these disorders, to continue research into the understanding of them and to look for a cause, in hopes of preventing them in the future.
One such awareness event took place at Century Village in Burton on Saturday, April 2. This grassroots event started with a little boy, Jason, who has autism and his family, which supports and adores him. Balloons are one of Jason’s favorite things, and he thought it would be fun to have a balloon launch to raise awareness of autism. Jason’s parents, Rachael and Tom, thought it was a great idea and started planning the event at the school Jason attends, as well as on Facebook.
Armed with a location which was donated by the Geauga County Historical Society’s Century Village, ribbons donated by another family affected by autism, ballons from a local autism chapter — blown up for free by Northeastern Party Outlet located in Harrington Square in Middlefield– and a lot of heart, this event took shape.
The weather was perfect for a balloon launch, the sun was out and the wind was brisk. It may have been a bit chilly for some tastes, but what can you expect in Northeast Ohio in April? The cold temperatures did not seem to deter anyone from coming out though. I counted over 110 people and many four-legged friends in attendance. Smiles and hugs were as prevalent as the blue and white balloons. Each child in Jason’s class had a balloon dedicated to them as did other children who wanted to participate.
The children were playing with balls and the grown-ups were talking and laughing. I stood there as an outsider to this world. Looking in, all I could see was love and support for each other… a world where the children mattered and we were all there for them. No monies were raised, no huge strides came from this event, just the knowledge that these children are not being forgotten and that the families have each other to lean on. I thought, if only more of the world was like this, think of what strides we could make.
As the time drew nearer to do the release, the children were given their balloons, a few got set off early, but it was no matter. Precision was not the desired outcome of this event. Jason’s dad started the countdown and then all the remaining balloons were released. The wind took most of them on their way to Middlefield and points east, some got tangled up in the trees and a few even popped before being set free. It was an exciting event that was over in no time, but the moments shared there and the sounds of the laughter will have a lasting effect.
The concept that a little boy can come up with an idea and that so many people can come together to make that come to fruition is a testament to the human spirit.
Thank you to Jason for coming up with the idea, and thank you to everyone who participated in this event. If you happen to see a blue or white balloon in a tree, be sure to pick it up and read the card. Awareness is knowledge and knowledge truly is power.