Disheartened by no-shows at autism walk

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2007

To the Editor:

On Sunday, April 22, our family participated in the first walk in Franklin to benefit Autism Speaks.

The walk was organized by Franklin High School senior Desiree Cantrell, who felt the need to do this after attending a National Leadership Conference last June for Health Occupations Students of America and heard that this year’s service project would benefit Autism Speaks. With the help of teacher Jane Best and Sgt. Mark Cornell of the Franklin Police Department, Desiree organized the walk for autism awareness.

These three individuals are to be commended for the phenomenal job that they did in putting together such a worthwhile event to help raise public awareness of autism. Today, 1 in 155 children is diagnosed with autism. Our son, Carson, is 15 and has high functioning autism. It was nice to be able to meet other families with children and grandchildren with autism and know that we are not alone out here in Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County.

We felt that their efforts were bittersweet, as we felt they lacked the support of the Franklin public schools and the Franklin city government, as well as other civic organizations. We had hoped to see an administrator, such as the principal, assistant principal or superintendent, from the school system present, perhaps even the mayor walking with us this past weekend. Not even this newspaper showed up to do an article on the walk.

So often today we hear about the negative in young people, yet when someone like Desiree, who has been out there for months promoting her project, gets no support from her own community, it is disheartening. We certainly hope in the future that this will not be the case. We need to support our youth and encourage them, especially when they work so hard to make this world a better place.

We truly appreciate the hard work of Desiree Cantrell, Mrs. Best and Sgt. Cornell. On behalf of parents of autistic children, we thank you for educating others. Thank you also to Island Boy for some wonderful entertainment! And a huge &uot;thank you&uot; to the supporters of our team &uot;Carson’s Crusaders,&uot; who donated $2, 115.00 to Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks … it’s time to listen!

Carson’s Crusaders

John, Sally, Jillian, Elizabeth and Carson Rensch