Hands down, the best part of blogging has been the amazing, inspiring people I have met. One of those great people I “met” through Twitter, which led me to start following his blog: The Misadventures of Heldawg. As I started reading more about Christian Heller and his son, I really wanted to share their story with you. Christian is a part of Run for Autism and maintains a tireless race schedule, culminating this October with the Chicago Marathon. Aside from making me feel like a running bum, Christian also inspires me with his commitment and his always positive, albeit sometimes self-deprecating, attitude. Read on to learn more about Christian, his son, and Run for Autism. I guarantee you’ll be inspired too.
CLEgal: What is Run for Autism?
TheHeldawg: Run for Autism is the main fund-raising channel for the Organization for Autism Research (OAR). Many people ask me why I am such an advocate for OAR and the work that they do. While that seems like an easy question to answer, reality is that it is because of a number of factors.
OAR has a strong mission statement, extremely pertinent core values and a solid strategic plan on how to give back to those that are affected by the autism spectrum. It is rewarding to know that money that they raise goes first and foremost to applied research. This is research to not only better understand Autism’s root cause and treatment options but also to help better understand if there are precautions to help prevent it in the future. I am also very pleased that they have expanded their conference options to be the “conference on wheels” approach which partners with local organizations to bring cutting edge tracks closer to home rather than holding one large conference that is tough to get away for. Lastly the education they provide. Funding from the money raised gives back in areas such as scholarships, educational aides (The Autism Guide for Educators and the College guides for those with Autism) and much more.
CLEgal: What’s been the most rewarding part of Run for Autism? What’s been the most challenging?
The Heldawg: This is a great question. I have a few rewards to mention. One I am not as chunky as I once was. Running has allowed me to lose 75 lbs. It also is a great motivating factor. Everyone has their cause, I encourage them to latch on as it can help push you through those tough training moments. I would say that the most rewarding. There is no greater feeling than knowing that when you cross the finish line, you have made a difference.
The most challenging is really fitting training into a full schedule. I work full-time, I have 2 kids (6 and 4), I am active in the local Autism Society and I love to be with friends and family. So fitting in the long runs can be challenging.
CLEgal: What inspired you to get involved with the Autism Society?
TheHeldawg: First and foremost was my getting involved with OAR once my son was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. He has Aspergers which has some of it’s own challenges as well as some traits that go hand in hand with what many know as autistic behavior. When I started running for OAR I saw how much people cared and how much I was able to raise. I said wow it would be great if we could have a local event to keep the money here for educational opportunities, events, etc and give back to the community. I made a pitch to the local chapter of the Autism Society and before you know it I was a board member.
CLEgal: Tell us about the Akron Autism Society 5K you just organized. How successful was it?
TheHeldawg: The Autism Society 5k and Fun Walk was something we did to raise money here locally. The money used would help us actually staff a paid staff member (currently we are an all volunteer organization) to help with coordination, fund events in the local communities for those families that are dealing with someone on the autism spectrum and provide more awareness and advocacy in North East Ohio. I have to admit we had our bumps and bruises and not everything went as planned but this was our first event and we will learn from our mistakes.
How successful? Well to us it was a tremendous win! We had 300 registered runners and over 900 walkers make up our registrants. We had 32 vendors that showed up to have an autism awareness and educational vendor fair. We were able to have balloon animal makers and 2 giant bounce houses for kids events. All in all we raised nearly $60,000 which will all stay here locally!
CLEgal: How can we get involved? What can we do to help Run for Autism?
The Heldawg: To get involved for Run for Autism it can happen a few ways. Reach out to them on Twitter @Run_for_Autism, Facebook, or touch base at www.researchautism.org. You don’t have to run an actual marathon or any event – you can sign up for a local 5k if you want, that’s how I started. You create your fundraiser link and away you go. Or they could reach out to me and I can get them in touch. I will say that they are the Charity Sponsor for the Cleveland Marathon 5k again next year and we are hoping to finish in Browns Stadium again! I have heard that if you want to run the Cleveland Double (5k and either the Half or Full on Sunday) they may pay for your 5k entry! Plus you get a cool singlet! If you don’t want to run – but want to help out in anyway – I fund-raise non stop and they can always donate to my efforts or contact me about being involved more locally. http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/christianheller/bankofamericachicagomarathon
Thanks to Christian for sharing his story and being such an inspiration. I encourage you to reach out to Christian and find out how you can help with Run for Autism.
Have a great weekend! Do something inspiring!