(credit: Melissa Rowe)

Maybe it was their childlike wonder that did it. Or the way they smiled at me when I told them they could have one. Passing out squishy yo-yos, brilliantly colorful and bouncy, brought child after child to our CW50 tent. But as I tried to hold back the overwhelming need to cry, I began to understand their plight. It is not that they don’t understand; it is that they’re frustrated with not being understood. The 2011 Walk Now for Autism Speaks event was at The Palace of Auburn Hills on September 10th.

Certainly, the weather had much to say the morning of the walk. Cool rain and brisk winds had me wondering if anyone would show up. But when we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. Groups of people were dressed in rain coats and huddled under umbrellas. A row of 20 -25 tents stood tall with people bustling inside, setting up tables and materials unique to their organizations.  And, between gusts of wind and rainfall, I could hear the band sound check and play their music on the stage. We set up our CW50 tent and placed the giveaways on the table. Among them, squishy and colorful yo-yos (a favorite of children and adults alike), bubbles, lip balm, mouse pads, hand fans (adorned with Jim Madaus’ face), and Jim Madaus himself, WWJ-TV’s Chief Meteorologist (only he was signing autographs – we weren’t giving him away).

(credit: Melissa Rowe) Rosalie Kakos and volunteer, Cameron, greet families. Jim Madaus signs autographs.

Before I knew it, the clouds disappeared and the glorious sun was blazing in the sky. As the hours passed, children and their families walked up to our tent and we greeted them with warmth and smiles.  Three moon bounces were inflated causing children to burst into excitement. Their giggles and laughter were contagious, as everyone around them seemed to emanate joy. It’s hard not to go back to your own childhood when you’re surrounded by so many children. Watching them play in the sun, laugh, and dance to the music caused me to swell with gratitude for their precious lives. There is pure innocence in their eyes, and a delicately loving and pained heart in their bodies, consummated by the love of their parents and supporters.

After the opening ceremonies, it was time for the walk. Jim Madaus took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony and the walk commenced soon thereafter. It was an inspiring sight to see. Hundreds of people walked together with their children, friends, and family, holding up signs and cheering each other on. But this was more than a walk. The walk was a symbol of their journey.

(credit: Melissa Rowe) Crowds of people gather for the ribbon cutting ceremony before the walk.

Like the yo-yos, their lives are colorful, bright, and thrilling. They bounce back from the hardships they face. Like the raging winds, they may become angry. Like the cool, droplets of rain, they may cry. But like the sun, they’re shining examples of faith and hope. And though their parents and caregivers may not understand, they do all they can to ensure that their children are understood.

(credit: Melissa Rowe)

Autism will not stop the rain from falling. It will not stop the sun from shining. And it will not stop the parents, caregivers, and children, from walking their own lovely journey in life. Together, they are steadfast in strength, reservoirs of hope, and a deep, bewildering abyss of love.

Autism may speak, but the children sing.

For more information on Walk Now for Autism speaks, please visit: walknowforautismspeaks.org

I highly recommend reading the young adult fiction novel, “Stuck in Neutral,” by Terry Trueman. It’s the story of Shawn McDaniel, a 14-year-old boy living with cerebral palsy, and life from his point of view.

Rosalie J. Kakos is a Community Affairs Intern at WWJ-TV and CW50. She writes stories, poetry and screenplays in her spare time.

  1. Karen says:

    Beautifully eeexrsspd, Jessica! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your journey. I hope lots of people will share their stories and help spread awareness, understanding and acceptance!

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