By: Jason Riley, Racing With Autism
Everyone that has been involved in racing knows the sport is very expensive and sometimes you need a leg up.
When Austin started racing 6 years ago, we had no idea of what we were getting ourselves into. We have struggled financially since day one trying to keep Austin in the sport that he loves. It isn’t a secret that my wife Jennifer and I have had to make a few very hard choices over the last few years to keep Austin going but when we see the impact racing has had on his life, we are glad we did.
It has been about 3 years since Austin was diagnosed with Autism. It was a tough pill to swallow to be honest. We weren’t sure what to do or where to turn. We were afraid that if people found out they would treat Austin differently.
In 2012 we decided to go public with Austin’s story and to my amazement it was embraced by the Karting community. His story, his message was received and responded too by people all over the world.
As his story spread, we were able to raise enough money through donations on Austin’s website and T shirt sales to keep him racing in 2013. We were also excited and overjoyed to make a donation to charity in Austin’s name. We would like to continue down this same path if possible. We have been fortunate to date with the love and support of sponsor’s, family and friends. We would love to reciprocate on a year to year basis, donating to charities supporting children and their families affected by Autism.
As we enter the 2014 racing season we have been very fortunate to have on board some great partners; Lincoln Electric, Terraglo Lighting, Accessible Daily Living, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, Bell Racing and Polen Designs. They have provided Austin incredible support which is helping him stay in his kart, keeping the wheels turning and the engine running.
Because of the incredible support, we have decided to expand the Racing with Autism team by sponsoring another young Autistic racer ourselves, whom currently races in Goodwood’s arrive and drive program. His name is Jayden Elphage.
You see the connection between Austin and Jayden will be a lifelong one. Jayden only decided to try kart racing when he and his parents heard about Austin’s story, an immediate love for a sport that tore down the barriers that allowed Austin to be exactly what he always wanted “just another kid racing karts.”
When Austin and Jayden met last year at the Goodwood race track, it was quite emotional. We saw the same excitement, the same emotion in Jayden as we did in Austin when he first started; an instant passion for the sport teamed with pure happiness when he’s in a kart.
We’re hoping that as Jayden continues to race, he too will find the same benefits in daily life that Austin has experienced. Austin is excited that he will be working with Jayden throughout this year and will try and teach him everything he knows.
We are hoping that we can make this an annual award and continue this program year after year in the hopes we are able to repay the community that has done so much for Austin.
To all racing fans out there, to anyone with a child, we as parents are given the divine privilege to raise our children. We must show them right from wrong, teach them respect, honour, love and compassion. Our children are our legacy; let’s give them every opportunity to succeed.
For more information about the Racing With Autism program, please visit http://racingwithautism.com.