Walk for Autism draws in family fun, support
By LAUREN HERNANDEZ - SPECIAL TO THE ADVOCATE
April 1, 2017 at 10:15 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2017 at 6 a.m.
A gust of morning wind blew along a young boy's cape that read "Daniel."
Daniel Martinez, 8, walked hand in hand with his parents, Marrissa and Israel Martinez, at the fourth annual Walk for Autism on Saturday at Ethel Lee Tracy Park.
In tow were 20 members of his friends and family who sported blue T-shirts with their team name, "Team Daniel."
Daniel was diagnosed when he was 3 years old. Doctors told his parents he would never be able to speak.
"I remember singing him 'Happy Birthday' ever since he was little, and then one year, he started singing it," said Daniel's aunt, Mandy Martinez. "Now he's talkative, singing songs and he's no longer shy."
The Martinez family and 21 other teams participated in the event created by the nonprofit Crossroads Autism Network.
"We are so excited that we had such a great turnout and that everybody is having a good time," said Paige Weaver, director of the autism network's board of trustees.
The network held its first walk in 2014 when founders Robyn and Tyson Garza wanted to bring the event back into the community.
"There are a lot of rural families that do not have access to a lot of resources or community involvement," Robyn Garza said. "What started off just being a walk ended up branching out and listening to what families wanted for their children."
The event raised money to provide families and their children the opportunity to enjoy activities such as private swimming lessons, horseback riding therapy classes and family nights at Hang Time Trampoline Park.
The most important thing the network does is provide families with the support they lack from others who don't understand autism, Garza said.
"When you have a child with a disability, it's easy to become very isolated, and it's hard to relate to others," she said.
Melissa Morales was one of those parents who felt alone after her two boys, Jude, 9, and Roman, 8, were diagnosed on the spectrum at early ages.
"It's important to ask for help because your family and friends might not understand," Morales said.
She has participated in the event since it began with her two boys and husband, Ruben, as "Team Morales."
The Morales family won a first-place prize trip to Sea World after raising $1,075 for the network with "Team Daniel" following behind them in second.
"We have never been to Sea World, so we are very excited," she said.
About 200 people participated in this year's walk, with a majority of them being volunteers.
Weaver said the organization is about bringing awareness, but it's more importantly a network to have support and be there for each other.
"These kids are amazing, and to see their smiles out here, running around and dancing, is priceless," she said.