Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Begging, Blogging and Bursting: fundraising fuelled by chocolate cake

Today I have taken the first steps towards what I hope will be a big pile of cash for the National Autistic Society. (I should add they were not literal steps. I haven't actually done many of those yet. My trainers remain askew, tongues panting, under my desk - where I threw them after my last run two weeks ago.)


No, today was spent setting up my fundraising page and asking my friends and family to support me in my endeavour to run a half-marathon for the charity that seeks to explain and advise about autism and support those affected by it.


I also spent rather longer than I'd like to admit setting up this blog (I know, it needs more work. Too much pink. ) A Twitter feed is next. What I lack in graphic design I make up for in energy, invigorated by a feeling that after months and years of desperately trying to do the right thing for my elder daughter, I have finally found a measure of practical support. My typing and clicking and formatting has been fuelled by the feeling that this -- THIS -- will make a difference. I've also been mainlining slice after slice of chocolate cake (last week was my birthday. ) As well as boosting my blood sugar levels it's also giving me the incentive I need to get up from the screen at some point and run it all off. 


In between marketing myself and begging for money I made six phone calls to in effect do the same thing for Grace: asking educational and legal advice organisations how we appeal the recent decision by the local educational authority to refuse her the statement of special educational needs that would have funded the extra help and support she needs in class.


But more of that another time.


Tonight's introduction is just that, and I shall keep it short and sweet. Here's what I'm up to and why:


I am running the London Royal Parks Half Marathon on October 9 for my daughter Grace, who has Asperger Syndrome.


Grace was a sunny and affectionate baby who has grown into a loving and beautiful girl. However, I have watched her become anxious and upset as she gets older and conscious of her differences. I have spent years seeking advice and a formal diagnosis. I have cajoled healthcare professionals, psychiatric experts and teachers to get her the support she so badly needs and it has always felt like an uphill battle. I have been encouraged by kindness but more often have come across shocking and unacceptable levels of ignorance.


Grace has problems interacting with her classmates and performing important life skills such as using money and telling the time. On the other hand she creates beautiful art – pages and pages of it – and writes spine-tingling stories and performs drama with such intensity that her teachers and classmates all look forward to the days when Grace is doing assembly or reading the story. Despite that, Grace says she would rather be ‘normal’ and not have any of these talents. When she says or does the wrong thing she is painfully aware of it. When this happens she feels as though she is letting everyone down.


I am running the Royal Parks Half Marathon to tell Grace that I will not let her down. I am running under the National Autistic Society banner to raise as much money as I can for my beautiful girl and for children like her so that we can start to understand autism better and so that we can explain it better. I want to nurture our special kids and watch them blossom, not wilt.


In the short-term I am aiming to raise £500 pounds. Longer-term, this is preparation for an even bigger event:  if my application is successful I'll be running the London Marathon next year -- in 2012's centre of Olympian excellence! -- for the National Autistic Society.


But first things first. I have to study the Royal Parks training plan and work out how I can build up my twice-weekly 3- mile run into a 13.1 mile circuit. This will involve keeping going for more than 45 minutes: a mysterious and wonderful thing to me if I can make it happen.


And even before that, there's the challenge that is Twitter. So I'd better get to it, before the last cocoa high wears off. Wish me luck.


To donate, please go to: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SophieWalker


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