BY TAMMY STECKLER
Anna and I were running one early morning out on the trails; sharing laughter, stories and making memories when I mentioned to her that I would like to organize a run in April for Autism Awareness Month. She said, “Awesome, let's do it!”
Carrie and Anna asked if I would like to do it as a charity run which would give me the opportunity to select a charity organization and to “pay it forward”. I immediately thought of Mea'Alofa Autism Support Center (MASC), a nonprofit organization which serves children and families in the Hampton Roads area; and is headed by a close friend, Christine Passaretti. I worked for Christine for five years before coming out to Okinawa as an ABA therapist and I witnessed her dedication, her time spent and her love; ensuring families received services regardless of what they can afford. I was immediately excited about organizing this running event.
On April 15, 2017, Women On Okinawa Trails (WOOT) hosted the Autism Awareness Run on Island; and opened the event “virtually” to allow the runners that left the island to participate back in the states; including the military women who were gone on deployment.
On a nationwide level, the Puzzle Piece symbol reflects the mystery and complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since every puzzle piece is different in some way, a puzzle piece accurately represents the diversity of the individuals affected. The shirts were the WOOT logo; the cherry-blossoms were substituted with puzzle pieces which was a beautiful design.
It was relatively easy. I posted the event date on the WOOT Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/wootwomen), designed and ordered t-shirts, selected the puzzle piece charm; which Ana ordered and Carrie posted both items on the WOOT website. It was a great inaugural family-fun event which brought out 35 runners, 1 husband and 6 children. A total of 47 runners participated and we raised $238.00 for MASC. We sold over 36 charms and 33 t-shirts. The difference in money came from those who donated on the day of the event. It was simply incredible morning and memories that I will cherish.
If you would like to learn more about autism and to help support MASC's mission please visit their website at http://learnwithmasc.org.