I took my 9 year old son Alex out of school on Monday in November. We had been invited to make a presentation to “a few” state and tournament directors in the USSSA in Daytona Beach. We live a few hundred miles south, so Alex and I left the day before. We arrived at night. Alex was tired, but we met our friend and lead on this, Gordon Patterson (Alex met Gordon before I had) the USSSA Florida state director. We all walked through the halls of the hotel together. We met so many people the USSSA Pride players that all gave Alex a high five. We were able to meet a few of amazing people who put on the tournaments last year. Yes, not surprising, Alex was more popular that me. We walked and met, and talked for two hours. Alex was hungry so we said our good nights, hit the room and got room service. Sleep came quick.
We woke the next morning, and headed to breakfast at IHOP. 5-6 people were there and Alex and I sat down with Gordon and ordered breakfast. Every few minutes a more people would come sit down. I started to notice more people with USSSA hats, and jackets. Within 30 minutes the entire large side of the IHOP was filled with USSSA people. There were state directors, area directors, Elite directors, USSSA Vice Presidents, top vendors.
The meeting started with a speech from Jeremy McDowell about the importance of USSSA’s committment to community involvement and what has been done over the years for Cancer. Now the USSSA can get behind another important community cause “Autism”. Jeremy introduced several of the corporate and publicity people involved who spoke that community causes can not only help the causes but strengthen USSSA as a whole. I was inspired.
Gordon was called and stood up in front of the crowd. Everyone seemed to know Gordon. He’s a big likable guy, with a strong sense of right and wrong and will let you know it. He’s funny, talkative and works 90 hours a week during softball season. We came here because Gordon asked us. He spoke to the crowd about what happened last year with our Angels 4 Autism tournaments. About all the positive experiences and how it affected his life and all the teams involved.
He invited Alex and I to the front. Gordon then spoke about children with Autism and then talked about Alex and how he and Alex discussed the best ways of loosing weight (Alex researched this on Youtube). That seemed to give everyone a chuckle. He asked Alex to describe what it was like to have Autism. My 9 year boy stood up and told those 75 people things that made him different and unique. I was so proud of him. He struggled towards the end but he did a great job. After we showed the banner and asked a few people in the crowd to comment about their own tournaments (all positive), Gordon then asked if “they” knew anybody close to them who had Autism (or had a child with Autism). 50% of the people in that room raised their hands. He then asked his last question ” who in this room will commit to doing an Angels 4 Autism tournament this next year”? In quiet unity, everyone raised their hands. Gordon simply said “great”. And we sat back down at our table. I was in shock. Just like that, all those USSSA directors all committed to support Autism Awareness in their state. We started with 1, then 7.. now?
Alex and I said our goodbye’s to Gordon so he could go to more meetings at the hotel. We then took a walk on Daytona beach (they don’t let you drive on it anymore), and headed back home. The awe of what happened was still settling in but I pushed everything aside to spend a few hours with my son on the trip home. He was a little disappointed we didn’t do more.
Today is December 23, 2017. Two days before Christmas and I’ve just sent emails to the 21st state (New Mexico) to schedule an Angels 4 Autism tournament. In the last 3 weeks state directors have emailed, texted, IM’d and called to discuss how to make their tournament great. The director from Arkansas, Scott Shankle who said he was inspired seeing Alex in Daytona, will have his Angels 4 Autism opening ceremony at the largest Miracle field in the country specifically designed and built for special needs kids to enjoy. We are producing a video that will play on the jumbotron and we hope it will be broadcast live on Youtube or Facebook.
Currently there are over 40 tournaments scheduled. Angels 4 Autism Across the USSSA will see over 50,000 participants this year, all committed to making a safer world for those struggling with Autism in a Neurotypical world.