The long haul to raise awareness about autism

The every day struggles of autism don’t end when the fundraising walk for Autism Speaks does later this month.

The every day struggles of autism don’t end when the fundraising walk for Autism Speaks does later this month.

That’s why a trio of teenaged longboarders have decided to continue the fundraising efforts for months, maybe even years after, with a new fundraising event Race 4 Reason.

Sardis secondary students Erik Eccleston, Kyle Belcourt and Klayten Evanoff are planning to ride their longboards from Chilliwack to North Vancouver, from Nov. 5 to Nov. 7,  to raise funds for Autism Speaks.

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of autism awareness in Chilliwack,” said 18-year-old Eccleston. “We have cancer awareness, diabetes awareness, but virtually nothing for autism.

“We’re doing this just to get the word out.”

The buddies got the idea while hanging out at The Truth skate shop in Vedder. Owners Melissa and Jason Flynn’s 11-year-old daughter Cypris has Asperger’s, a spectrum of autism. The family, along with co-owner Joel Hershey, are participating in Walk Now for Autism Speaks on Sept. 25, and are raising funds through their shop and through a partnership with Etnies.

Eccleston, Belcourt and Evanoff wanted to do more.

Evanoff came up with the idea for the ride, wanting to emulate an event similar to Push for the Cure, which is an annual fundraiser for breast cancer awareness that has longboarders and skateboarders riding from Hope to Vancouver, and has raised more than $900,000 in the six years since it was started.

This year the plan is to start small, just the three of them, “but if all goes well, we’re going to shoot for Push for the Cure numbers next year,” said Eccleston.

The longboarders haven’t yet defined an exact route, but plan to skate from Heritage Park in Chilliwack to 264th the first day, where they will camp for the night, and then to Cutter Island in North Vancouver the next day. Total kilometres, approximately 106.

Eccleston is aware of the challenge before them. Not only will it be the longest distance they have ever rode, they will also be facing unpredictable weather. With the event taking place in November, it could be sunny, raining, or snowing.

“I’m completely nervous; it’s definitely going to be a long skate,” he said, adding they’ve already been training for an hour to an hour and a half every day after school along the streets of Chilliwack.

“It will be very difficult.”

But nothing compared to what people with autism go through every day.

Eccleston’s life has been surrounded by autism. His cousin has autism. His best friend’s brother has autism. The Flynns’ daughter has autism.

“I’ve seen the every day life of people who are autistic and how hard it can be,” he said. “Even the simplest task can be a massive challenge for someone with autism.

“If it does snow [for the ride] maybe people will see that we are doing something very hard for a good cause, and maybe they’ll take a look at their own lives and compare it to those with autism.”

For more information, visit the Facebook page Race 4 Reason. To donate, visit The Truth skate shop on Lark Road.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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