The second Saturday in October is a special day to 9-year-old Seamus Millet. On his family’s calendar, it is marked with a puzzle piece, and he counts down the days.
Seamus, who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism just before his fifth birthday, is a veteran of the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism, the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Autism Society of North Carolina. Every day, he asks his parents: “How much money have we raised? How many people are walking? How many people have signed up?” said his mom, Katie Millet. “He takes it very, very seriously.”
He and his family have participated in the downtown Raleigh event every year since 2010, raising almost $30,000. They know the money will help dozens of individuals and families affected by autism, but what is most important to Seamus is the actual event.
“This day is huge for our family. It’s one of our favorite days of the year, honestly,” Millet said. “It is a special day for Seamus to understand how big his support network is and how many people there are supporting him and behind him and behind our family. When you see that, that goes a long way.”
Seamus’s team is called the Wizards of Auz, a play on the word “autism” and his favorite movie when the family first created the team. Their T-shirt, which Seamus helped design, features the yellow-brick road and ruby slippers. “Everything has to get approved by Seamus, according to him,” his mom said, laughing. “He takes a lot of pride in his team.”
The team has a core group of family members who walk every year, but they also are joined by friends and friends of friends, some of whom even fly in. They usually have 20-25 team members; the bigger the team, the happier Seamus is, his mom said. After the Run/Walk for Autism in downtown Raleigh, they all go back to the Millets’ Durham home for a big party to celebrate their success and what Seamus has been able to do to help others.
They certainly deserve to celebrate; $30,000 is an incredible amount for a Run/Walk team. Millet said she and her husband, Dan, each send out letters by email and on Facebook, to share their family’s story, Seamus’s milestones that year, how the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) has helped them, and where the money will go. “We are just very big into appreciating the help that we got early, and ASNC is great about advocating and getting information out there,” Millet said. “It’s a way for us to help support that cause.”
She said making the cause personal helps people understand the challenges some families face. Even asking for small amounts often results in bigger donations, she said. “I’m always surprised by people who give. …You never know who’s affected, and who it means something to. Go for it!”
Millet’s letter this year shares a lot of positive news about Seamus. He started a new school last year, but took that in stride, making plenty of friends.
“He is doing amazing. This past year he has really come into his own,” Millet said. “For a child on the spectrum, I think most of us would agree he’s a social butterfly.”
Seamus has come a long way from the 3-year-old who was so frightened and anxious around groups of people that he wouldn’t get out of the car for his first day of soccer, or on the field later in the season. “When there was a group of kids, Seamus would cling for dear life to us. He would not look at anybody; he would not talk to anybody. He was terrified.”
Now, Seamus has close friends and is excited about joining chorus. He has been in Cub Scouts, and the other day, he shook the Cubmaster’s hand for the first time.
“Seamus is to the point now where there’s a lot of cool things that he can do and that he is good at, that are very closely related to the autism,” Millet said. “And we really see it as a strength for him, and we talk about how cool it is that he has autism. He understands that he is one of the lucky ones.”
Step out to improve lives in the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism on Saturday, Oct. 10! The event in downtown Raleigh will include a USATF-certified 5K race, which is part of the Second Empire Grand-Prix Series; a 5K noncompetitive run; a recreational 1-mile run/walk; and a kids’ dash. Celebrate autism awareness and acceptance with a kids’ play area, music, refreshments, and vendor space that will showcase local businesses, service providers, support resources, and sponsors. Proceeds will fund local programs of the Autism Society of North Carolina.
Register today: www.trianglerunwalkforautism.comTags: ASNC, autism, autism advocacy, autism awareness, Run/Walk for Autism, triangle run/walk for autism