By Rachael Johns
Sheena did not know, when she went to school for Special Education, that she would eventually have a child who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Because of the background Sheena has as a Special Ed. teacher, she hopes to be a supportive “go to” person for children with special needs. The birth of her son, O’Reilly, has helped Sheena become a leader and supporter for other parents learning how to advocate for their child and navigate the system.
Neither did her husband, Jeff, know that when he started his Zipline Canopy Adventures in Asheville, that this would become something even bigger than business. Sheena advocated again: part of the foundation of their business was going to be giving back to the local community, specifically in helping families who have children with autism.
How does the Wells Fargo Zipping for Autism work? “Your team goal (up to 10 people) is to raise $790 for the group (that’s $79/person for a team of 10). You get two hours of zip-line time; that is how long the course takes. “You’re getting your friends to pay for you to go zip-lining,” says Jeff.
There is a special challenge this year. The first team that raises $1000 gets 10 free passes to Asheville Brewery Tours. There are also prizes for top fundraisers and a team costume contest.
“Lots of people love to zip because it’s fun,” says Jeff, “and we donate the course for the day.” 100% of the money raised by teams for Zipping for Autism is donated to the Autism Society of North Carolina.
Sheena states her fundraising goals are specific. “Very specifically for early diagnosis, advocacy, and respite care for families affected by autism. Early diagnosis and advocacy is very important. When you have a child on the autism spectrum (ASD), many parents need help working with their child and the school system to assure they receive the appropriate services. The Autism Society of NC is a supportive resource helping families connect with services they need.”
With a goal this year of $50,000 for this, the second year, the money raised from Zipping for Autism will enable families to have their children evaluated (normally $250), receive an autism advocate representative at school planning meetings (normally $100) and respite support that they need to be successful. These are some of the most valuable and useful services Sheena wants to be able to provide to families dealing with autism in Western North Carolina. Most people are directly or indirectly affected by autism within their circles of family, friends and acquaintances. In fact, “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the second most common developmental disability following intellectual disability. ASD is more common than childhood cancer, cystic fibrosis, and multiple sclerosis combined. It is estimated that up to 1 out of every 88 children born today has some form of ASD. Evidence suggests that the prevalence rate in North Carolina is even higher than the national average, at 1 in 70.” (Source: www.autismsociety-nc.org/index.php/about-autism/stats).
For many parents, learning that your child has symptoms of autism can be shocking and unexpected. Symptoms and signs of autistic may be “problems with social, behavioral, and communication skills. They might repeat behaviors and might not understand change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things.” (Source: www.autismsociety-nc.org/index.php/about-autism/signs) Much research is being put into the cause of Autism; there is no clear indicator, but rather an array of various degrees of autism and autistic-like tendencies.
This passage from the Bible, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9, has been used for generations in wedding ceremonies, but only recently have I discovered that this quote applies to many of the seemingly magical connections and opportunities that happen here in Western North Carolina. Often one does not understand why they had an experience, met certain people, or were called to study a particular field, and then, years later, it all becomes clearer.
If you are interested in sponsoring a team, donating money or volunteering for the event, please visit the website www.zippingforautism.com. If you think someone in your family or someone you know may need services, please contact the Autism Society of NC (Western office) at 828-236-1547 or visit www.autismsociety-nc.org.
Rachael Johns is a business writer with Asheville Creative Content. Rachael provides organizations and business owners with original content for marketing with interviews and personal connection. See www.ashevillecreativecontent.com for more information.