The GSO Run/Walk for Autism at Jaycee Park, Supports Programs to Help Local Families, and Celebrates it’s 10th Year
EJ Clay is about to turn 10. He loves puzzles, bubbles, music, anything outdoors, and most of all, basketball.
“EJ loves to play basketball,” said his mom, Cecily Shropshire, explaining that he is tall for his age. “They call him the little LeBron.” He’s also very funny and is often the class clown, she said.
Just two years ago, EJ, was mostly nonverbal. “He couldn’t really express what he wanted,” his mom said. He had been diagnosed with autism when he was 21/2, and remained shy and extremely attached to her. When he started attending the afterschool program at the GSO office of the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC), he was always saying, “Mommy coming to get me?” “Mommy coming?”
EJ attended ASNC’s summer program as well, and the interaction with the ASNC staff and other children, as well as the structure, made a big difference. “All of a sudden last summer, he just started talking,” Shropshire said. “Now he actually uses full sentences. That kind of shocked everybody there.”
Judy Smithmyer, ASNC Autism Resource Specialist Coordinator, has also supported EJ and his mom. “In the two years since I have known him, he has made such great progress,” Smithmyer said. “He is happy and excited to be at our Cntr and often greets me with a ‘Hi, Judy.’”
Smithmyer worked with EJ’s schoolteachers so they would know how best to support him. EJ had been going to a school where they didn’t know how to work with him, his mother said, and they called her at her workplace so often that she lost her job.
Now, EJ is doing great in school. He’s more open and adventurous, and he speaks his mind, his mother said. “It’s been such a change.”
On Sept. 29, hundreds of participants will come out to raise money for the programs that made such a difference for EJ and his mother. The 10th annual GSO Run/Walk for Autism at Jaycee Park will include a 5K race, a recreational 1K run/walk, music, refreshments, and a resource fair. Participants can register at www.GSOrunwalkforautism.com.
“The Autism Society of North Carolina is a wonderful organization,” Shropshire said. “The people there, they really, truly care.”