For Trish Kane, autism has been a part of daily life for the last 18 years.
On Sept. 30, Kane will take part in the Abilities Network fundraiser called Walkabout at Goucher College alongside her son and family friends Angel and Nick Myers, another Parkvillian mother-son duo, on a team called "My Buddy."
For Kane, the fundraiser is just another way to give back.
"I'm pretty much 24-7 autism," Kane said. "I want to contribute, and financially I cannot do it on my own. I have fun with this ... it feels good to do something, you just want to help someone."
Early on in her involvement with autism advocacy groups, Kane said that she was more involved with national groups focused on research and finding a cure but as Eric got older, she started to look for a local group more focused on the practical.
That's how she became involved with Abilities Network.
Lauren Dunn, a spokeswoman for Abilities and one of the organizers of the upcoming fundraiser, explained that Abilities Network provides a variety of services to people with disabilities around the state, including those on the autism spectrum.
"One of the things that we do is provide services to adults with disabilities—teaching things like how to live independently, how to find and keep a job," Dunn said.
That appealed to Kane in a big way.
"The Abilities Network is not searching for a cure. They’re offering a practical approach to autism," Kane said. "In my early years, I was doing the walks that focus on research and a cure but as Eric got older I got to thinking about what he needs now and those things were vocational and employment support."
"I raise money so that I know on a very practical scale that these monies go back into supporting young people in the community."
Eric, who is enrolled in the autism program at Parkville High School, will likely graduate within the next three years.
Despite the fact that Eric has what Kane called "low verbal skills"—he can make simple requests, but has difficulty speaking and processing language—he became fast friends with Nick Myers, who also has autism but is verbal.
Their close bond became the inspiration for Kane's team name: "My Buddy".
"The thing about the autism spectrum, it's very broad—[his inability to speak] doesn't give you an idea of his intelligence," Kane said. "I'm talking about Eric, because that's my personal experience, but that's true for a lot of people on the autism spectrum."
The Walkabout for Abilities Network takes place Sept. 30 at Goucher College in Towson. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 9:30 a.m. If you're interested in walking, visit www.abilitiesnetwork.org or contact organizer Lauren Dunn.
Do you know someone on the autism spectrum? Have you ever participated in an event like this? Tell us in the comments.