Welcome to Bob and Colleen Szarek's fundraising page.
We first want to start off by saying thank you! Thank you for being part of our village, in whatever form that looks like! Through the last 7 years, we have quickly grown to understand how important support from every angle is while we navigate this journey with our son, Mac. So, thank you for checking in, showing up, listening, distracting us…whatever it is that you have done, has meant the world. Because of your support, we have successfully made it this far in our journey.
Our son was diagnosed with autism right before his second birthday, he is now 7 years old. Throughout our journey, we have been on our own path to help us build our village to create the greatest opportunities for Mac. As we were engulfed in 40 plus hours of therapy per week for our son in the blink of an eye after his diagnosis, it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For what seems like so long, autism was scary and overwhelming and almost just plain unfair. Not only was our day-to-day schedules completely shook, as parents, our vision for our son’s future was also drastically altered. Suddenly, all that attention that we had been able to give to Mac’s older sister, Brae, seemed to dwindle. We had to worry about our son’s future and what that would look like, all while trying to navigate how this would affect our daughter. The worries raced through our minds. Would Mac ever talk? Would Mac be able to go to school? Would Mac live with us forever? We found ourselves pushing those worries to the back of our minds, simply so we could just function every day and show up for Mac. We knew there was no choice, we were determined to help Mac somehow include us in his world. Bob continued to work, luckily from home, as Mac’s therapy called for someone to be home from 9:00 to 5:00 5 days a week. As a mom, I wanted to be there for all his therapies, I wanted to understand what triggered him, how to help him through those tough times, but I also knew there was another little soul who needed our attention. Through time, we figured out how to balance it all. We didn’t master this balance, but we started to see it could be done, there was enough love and patience to make this work. We each learned what our role would look like in this journey. As a mom, I would do the scheduling, the appointments, ask the questions. As a dad, Bob would be the guy to help Mac enjoy those childhood memories like every little boy; go to baseball games, and basketball games, and play rough on the playground. Brae was the greatest big sister of all, she loves Mac beyond autism, she didn’t let that define him. She gave him his squeezes when he needed it, shook her head in understanding when we had to leave places sooner than planned because Mac was overstimulated, she pushed him on the swings for hours throughout the week to help calm him, she saw the beauty in autism. Most important, we all knew the biggest role was to love and accept Mac. Through much time, and many learning curves, we, as parents, have also been able to see the beauty in autism. Mac continues to excel in school, proving he is right where he is supposed to be. He continues to make friends and yearns for company to entertain him. He amazes us each day with his speech! His spelling is simply mind blowing! When he demands something (yes, he is quite bossy) that we just can’t quite decipher, he finds a way to spell it out on his device to make sure we understand. Mac still attends therapy after school 4 days a week, he still puts in the work every day. The expectations that we had set in our minds, maybe setting the bar low so we wouldn’t feel let down, have been demolished. Mac has personally pushed and broken all those boundaries and showed us there are no limits for him. The feelings of uncertainty, unfairness and anger still lingers in our minds, but Mac has shown us he is beautiful in his own way and has taught us to see his world and how it is simply perfect for him.
As we look back at 5 years ago, we were not sure we would ever get to this place, to the place where we could take in all the beauty our son exudes. As parents we found ourselves at these crossroads, we became eager to help other families who are in similar situations we were, and still are in. with this newfound energy, Bob joined the host committee to support the Autism Speaks Chip In Casino night. His work and dedication to help drive the purpose of Autism Speaks was so encouraging. This past summer of 2022, I joined the Upper Midwest Leadership Council for Autism Speaks. For so many years, we have fought to help our son fit into this world, but with a simple mind shift, we are now determined to make this world fit for our son and all people with autism. Through my short time on this council, our village has grown, and I have met such incredible people who have the same mission as myself, to help spread awareness and acceptance of autism. Through this experience on the council, my husband and I were honored to be asked to co-chair their biggest fundraiser for the Midwest. Autism Speaks is doing tremendous work in providing resources to autistic families in this time of greatest need.
The Chip In Casino night is a wonderful way to help families like ours, as we try and navigate this journey and create a future for our children that seems so clouded.
We would be grateful for you to support our family and the mission of Autism Speaks in person at our wonderful event, but we understand this isn’t always possible. We know that all of you that have causes that are near and dear to your heart, but we ask you to consider a charitable donation to this event. Your monetary support is so helpful in so many ways!
Although we can’t predict the future for our son and our family, we are hopeful, grateful and full of love knowing we have you as our support
Thank you for being part of our village!
Bob, Colleen, Brae and Mac Szarek
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