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Jeff’s Marathon Journey – November Update

Jeff Bowers

Well, it’s done. November 6th has come and gone, and I’m happy to say that I made it safe and sound to New York, and completed 42.2km through the five boroughs in what has been confirmed as the largest marathon ever! Our final tally on the fundraising was $4,407. I’m very happy that I was able to raise these funds, and I’m sure they will go a long way in helping the recently re-branded Autism Society of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (formerly the Fort McMurray Autism Support Group) as they continue their efforts to make life easier for families affected by life on the Autism spectrum in the region.

The marathon itself was definitely everything I expected it to be and more. After planning and training for 16 months, the final 20 weeks of which were an all-out effort to reach marathon fitness, it was a truly surreal experience to approach the start line on Staten Island shortly after 10:30am on Sunday morning. The week leading up to the marathon was a little stressful. Six days out, I woke up with a scratchy throat and a stuffy nose. Fearing the worst, I dropped by the pharmacy on the way home from work and picked up an ample supply of vitamin C, Cold FX, and zinc lozenges. I also made the last-minute decision to give my body a full week of rest leading up to the big day, against the wisdom of the structured program I had been following for the past five months. I figured if there was anything that could possibly derail my run, it was a bad cold, and the best way to try and prevent what I was feeling from worsening was to rest and medicate. The cold didn’t completely go away, and I feel like it did play a factor in my slightly slower-than-hoped-for finish time – more on that near the bottom.

Yeunsuk and I departed from Fort McMurray in the wee hours of Friday morning. We arrived in Manhattan early that same evening and checked into our hotel before quickly heading out for a brief walk through Times Square. Saturday was spent mostly at the race expo, where I picked up my bib and got to meet face-to-face with some of the people I had spent the past twenty weeks virtually training with. Friends of ours arrived from Nova Scotia later Saturday evening, and we checked into our AirBnB condo near Central Park after meeting them for dinner. My rise on Sunday morning was scheduled early at 5:15am, so Saturday night didn’t bring much in the way of excitement. Nonetheless, I didn’t sleep a single wink that night. I gave up on trying and got out of bed at 5am to grab a quick shower before heading off on the “marathon before the marathon” that runners in New York have to deal with. One of the things I had read lots about, and was mentally prepared for, was the nearly six hours of travel and standing around before finally crossing the starting line.

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Fort McMurray Autism Non-Profit Opens with Hopes for Future Centre

‘It made me want to do more in Fort McMurray, but because we were so well set up, it was hard to come back’
By Travis McEwan, CBC News

Kirsti Mardell, and her 6-year-old son, Quentin who has a non-verbal form of autism.

Kirsti Mardell, and her 6-year-old son, Quentin who has a non-verbal form of autism.

Kristi Mardell got the keys this week for an office where Fort McMurray’s autism society will soon set up shop, good news that came five months after she and other members fled the wildfire with their children.

Many society members went to Red Deer or Edmonton in the days after the wildfire. The forced evacuation was especially stressful for autistic children, who need specific help and programs most children don’t require.

A handful of society members haven’t returned since the city reopened in June, because the supports and classes for their children were better than those provided in Fort McMurray.

“We evacuated to Red Deer and we were well setup there, and the services we got kicked in right away,” said Mardell, president of autism society in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. “Our kids had support in school right way. It was amazing how fast and supportive the other communities were compared to Fort McMurray.

“It made me want to do more in Fort McMurray. But because we were so well set up, it was hard to come back.”

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Goals: ASA was started over 20 years ago with the goals of:
  • Improving the lives of children and adults with ASD;
  • Providing mutual support amongst families and individuals directly affected by ASD;
  • Creating safety and quality of life for people with ASD and their families in Alberta;
  • Creating a welcoming province that values the participation of people with ASD in all areas of life;
  • Recognizing the worth of every person with ASD and their contribution to society.

Who We Are: Autism Society Alberta (ASA) is a registered society in Alberta and a registered charity with Canada Revenue Agency. It is a network and collaboration amongst autism groups comprising parents of children and adults with ASD, family members, individuals with ASD, and caring community citizens. We also have a representative on the Board of Autism Society Canada to collaborate on national issues. Presently four groups are members of Autism Society Alberta:

Accomplishments: ASA has had representatives on provincial Advisory Boards to different Government Ministries. ASA has sponsored Autism Awareness presentations in some communities during October, Canada’s Autism Awareness Month. ASA has contributed to the development of resource materials for families, such as handouts on community resources and books on issues affecting those with ASD .

Who to Contact: Contact the ASA group closest to where you live or where you are planning to live, for information, resources, and support in Alberta. For example, if you live in Northern Alberta, contact ASEA; Southern Alberta – contact CAS, etc. Please refer to "Regional Chapters" on the left hand side.

For information and assistance with your local support group, or to join ASA please feel free to contact us at 1-877-777-7192
or email president@autismalberta.ca