By Dave Sevick
Yesterday, I met a remarkable woman whom I am certain I will never forget. She is the mother of a boy living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and like so many parents in similar circumstances, she scheduled a tour to learn more about the programs and services we offer at Firefly, hoping that we might be the answer for her 8-year-old son, Jackson.
This certainly wasn’t the first time I had heard about the struggles and challenges ASD families face every day. In fact, since I began working at Firefly, I have developed a level of awe and respect for those families that is difficult to put into words. But this was the first time I had heard it like this–not as much with words, but more with a language that comes from the heart, one that is best understood by the soul.
But as I reflected on my visit with this woman, it occurred to me that as remarkable as I found her to be, she really was no more extraordinary than any of the other moms or dads who are an integral part of the Firefly family, and whose children’s futures are at the heart of our mission. Each has made similar sacrifices, and each endures daily struggles and challenges unique to parents of a child on the spectrum. And with that, I gained an even deeper understanding of, and appreciation for the unwavering dedication of ASD families. Over the course of just four years, this particular family had moved five times: twice within California, then to Arizona, on to Utah, and now to Colorado—all for the sake of their child. Within the autism community, that really isn’t all that unusual.
As I continue to explain to people why Firefly is worthy of their philanthropy, it is important to share the stories of these families caring for their sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. The divorce rate within ASD families is 85%. The financial burden they face can be insurmountable, often well into the millions over the span of time from birth to adulthood. It is a way of life that would knock me off my feet after only a few hours. And I don’t think I could get up again.
So there you have it. Those are the cards these families have been dealt. Their onus is not intermittent. It is constant, often for life. There is no respite, no reprieve, no vacation. And yet they face each day with an almost superhuman strength that only a select few can truly understand.
I was reminded of that today in a way I will never forget. Yes, the woman I was so fortunate to meet left an indelible imprint on my soul. But it only augmented the immense respect I have for every family in the same situation. And that experience will become a part of the voice I use to help the community better understand what the autism experience is all about, and why it is worthy of their charitable dollars.
At Firefly, our entire existence is dedicated to helping kids just like Jackson, and to creating the path that will lead them to a more satisfying, fulfilling, contributing, and even independent life as an adult. And damn, we’re good at it.
Firefly is not a private institution, nor is it a charter school. It is a globally respected 501c(3) non-profit organization—an ABA clinical day-treatment center that has transformed the lives of thousands of children and families who live with autism spectrum disorder each and every day. As a non-profit, we face constant funding challenges that have the potential to diminish our work and slow the progress of our clients. But we cannot allow that, because even the slightest interruption in any treatment protocol can have devastating effects. Failure is not an option.
So, as we enter ‘Colorado Gives’ season, I’m asking each of you to help us continue our legacy of care for the autism community with a gift of just $25, less than what most of us spend on lunch in just one month. If you can’t afford that, how about $10? Or even five? If you can afford to give more, all the better. I just hope you will give something. You don’t have to wait until December 5, which is the actual Colorado Gives Day (CGD). Just like voting early for an election, you can donate right now—today—and still have it count towards our $70,000 goal for CGD. Please. Too many kids just like Jackson, and too many moms just like the incredible woman I met yesterday are counting on us. We can’t let them down.
You can make your donation to Firefly Autism right now. Just click here, check the box to apply your gift to Colorado Gives Day, and follow the prompts. You’ll be part of the process that will transform many lives—not just the lives of children with autism, but the lives of their families as well. Thank you.