PROMOTING AUTISM AWARENESS is the mission of Alan and Jonathan Stokes of Lansing – and they have developed a creative approach to do so. From fall of 2017 to fall of 2018, they visited each of 49 YMCA locations within the state of Michigan, but now they are returning to every single location, spending more time at each facility and reaching out to each individual community. The current visitation plan should take about four years, allowing for a more balanced pace to their schedule. Jonathan, who is now 14 and is autistic, enjoys visiting these locations along with his father. According to Alan, Jonathan enjoys the travel, mostly day trips, visiting new towns and new places, and is intrigued by the geography of the state.
The Lansing father/son duo stopped in at the Shiawassee Family YMCA on Saturday, July 27 for a complete tour. They set up a table, offering valuable information to visitors, in the front lobby. Alan is associated as a volunteer partner with Jack’s Place for Autism Foundation out of Southfield. Jack’s Place is dedicated to offering a support system for individuals and families dealing with the challenges related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The organization offers several services including scholarships/grants for swim instruction, baseball, summer camps, dance and more. More information on Jack’s Place is available at www.jacksplaceforautism.org. The Jack’s Place mascot is a cuddly stuffed pup named Augie. Alan and Jonathan had brought a couple of the stuffed animals with them, including one for a raffle.
“I think they’re very encouraged that maybe we can get the word out that they’re available to help,” Alan shared about Jack’s Place and the available scholarships.
Forty-two of 49 of the state YMCA locations offer pools. Swimming is very much a love of Jonathan’s and offers him sensory stimulation, a useful aid. As many know, the Shiawassee YMCA does not currently have a pool, though that is on the “bucket list” and that is acceptable to Jonathan because he likes to “walk around” and will use some of the cardiovascular exercise equipment available.
Laura Burrough, CEO of the Shiawassee Family YMCA, is encouraging of individuals with ASD, who are always welcome at the facility and was pleased to have Alan and Jonathan visit.
The Shiawassee Family YMCA is located on Main Street in Owosso. The first Owosso-area YMCA opened in 1947, but operations have been held at the current location since 1955, with several alterations made to the facility.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)