Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Steps Of Hope" By Stephanie Welter


     Photo booths, flash moms and lots of friends. That’s how I will describe this year’s Step’s Of Hope put on by the Autism Society of Minnesota. Each year vendors and sponsors get together at Southdale mall to put on a bit of a party of sorts for the autism community and their family members.

     As Mrs. Minnesota International I had the privilege of placing medals around the necks of kids that ran what was called the “flash race.” It was a very fast walk around lower level shops. Naturally, some of those fast walks morphed into trots, which lead to full out sprinting for first place! Trying to abide by mall rules in those situations is not the easiest, but watching those kids faces as they crossed the finish line was priceless.
     As we strolled around taking silly pictures in the photo booth, and spinning wheels to win prizes, we ran into a friend from long ago. When my son looked up and saw one of his first therapists from when he was just a toddler he yelled, “Christine!” and a gigantic smile spread across his face. Christine was one of the first therapists we hired as a Clinical Supervisor at the therapy center I co-founded called  The Lazarus Project when Ben was just a toddler. She worked with Benjamin for years. She now has her own company and was one of the vendors. With precious people like Christine, not much changes in your heart for those who became like family in order to help your child reach their full potential in every area of life.

     Toward the end of the event, my kids and I stood to hear who would win the prize drawings, when suddenly we heard the sounds of dance music start, and our attention immediately went to a group of young teenagers who had taken over the middle of the rotunda area to begin to perform in a flash mob dance! They had choreographed their own dance moves and selected the music. Their moves were original and some of them looked pretty difficult to perform! The crowd was very generous with applause and praise for these kids who had clearly worked very hard to gift us with a little fun that day.

     As we walked around to meet and greet all the superheroes (Flash Gordon, Storm and the Power Rangers) and princess we noticed in the sea of faces, the warm smiles of friends of Ben’s from The MAC School. It was a reminder to me and my family how connected we truly all are. There’s a real sense of comradery and support.

     I applaud the Autism Society of Minnesota for their diligent ongoing work in the Autism community. They support and help provide services and resources for tens of thousands of families like mine each year. They are one of the most active branches of the Autism Society of America in the entire country, and the staff and volunteers are all heart. We are truly grateful, and plan to be at Steps of Hope in upcoming years!

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