The Triangle Run/Walk for Autism: Because Experience Makes a “World of Difference”

Lorraine and Adam (2)

Lorraine La Pointe moved to North Carolina because of a brief encounter with a respite worker.

It was the early 1990s, and La Pointe was living in Florida with her toddler son, who had autism. She was having trouble getting services for Adam, who was nonverbal until the age of 3. La Pointe came to North Carolina for a conference about autism, and while she attended sessions, Adam was cared for by respite workers through the Autism Society of North Carolina. When she came to pick him up, she was given a sheet detailing the snacks he had eaten and the activities he had done. And then a worker handed her a plastic bag containing Adam’s underwear, saying he had had an accident, but assuring her that it had not been a problem. “That to me was a world of difference,” La Pointe said. “It was such a little deal to them.”

La Pointe, a pediatric nurse, decided to find a job in North Carolina and move there, and says she has never regretted it. Her first impression of the Autism Society of North Carolina has held up over the years as the nonprofit has provided respite with experienced workers. Not having to explain everything about autism and then Adam’s own idiosyncrasies was a great relief, La Pointe said. “You don’t have to go through those hoops,” she said.

Adam Ricci is now 23 and lives in a group home in Carrboro. He has three part-time jobs – thanks to vocational support from ASNC – he volunteers, and he participates in leisure and church activities. “He’s got a more full life than I ever would have expected,” La Pointe said.

None of it would have been possible without the support they received from ASNC, La Pointe said. So on Oct. 12, they will be sure to be part of the nonprofit’s Triangle Run/Walk for Autism fundraiser, just like every other year. “It all goes to a place that supports our kids the best,” she said. Last year, more than 3,200 people participated in the downtown Raleigh event, which starts with a 5K race that is part of the Second Empire Grand Prix Series and also includes a noncompetitive 5K, a 1-mile fun walk, a kids’ dash, a fun zone, refreshments, and music. Vendor space will showcase local support resources, service providers, and other businesses.

In 2012, the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism raised a record $310,000. La Pointe knows the organization helps families across the state that often have nowhere else to turn. “The Autism Society has always been there for everybody regardless of how much they can pay.”

Ricci and La Pointe are also big fans of ASNC’s Camp Royall in Pittsboro. Ricci has attended the summer camp for those with autism more than a dozen times over the years, and each time he goes back, “it’s like he’s the mayor,” going around greeting everyone, his mother said. Camp Royall is a special place, La Pointe said: “Where else do adults get to go to camp?” She volunteers there often, and says everyone is always so excited to see her. “It does the soul good.”

Taking advantage of camp and other opportunities from the Autism Society of North Carolina over the years has also helped La Pointe find other parents who understood the challenges she faced. “It really makes a difference, having people who get it and don’t even bat an eye,” she said.

So on Oct. 12, La Pointe will be walking alongside those families, in support of the Autism Society of North Carolina, which supports them all. “I really don’t think you ever see a tighter family than the autism community.”

♦ ♦ ♦

The Autism Society of North Carolina will hold its 15th annual Triangle Run/Walk for Autism in downtown Raleigh’s Moore Square from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 12. The event includes a 5K race, which is part of the Second Empire Grand-Prix Series and is USATF-certified; a 5K noncompetitive run; a recreational 1K run/walk; and a kids’ dash. It will also feature a family-friendly festival with a fun zone, refreshments, and vendor space where businesses, service providers, local support resources, and sponsors will be showcased.

Visit www.trianglerunwalkforautism.org or call 800-442-2762 to register, join a team, form a team, sponsor, donate, or volunteer. For more information about the Autism Society of North Carolina, visit www.autismsociety-nc.org.

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