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County Native Runs In New York Marathon

Steve Johnson participated in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1 to raise awareness and funds for Autism Speaks.

Johnson’s son, Trevor, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, a high functioning form of autism, in February of 2009. 

He and his wife, Christina, recently shared their story with Gazette readers in hopes of helping others.

In addition the Johnsons also decided to support Autism Speaks, a national non-profit organization for autism that is committed to creating awareness, providing research and government advocacy for autism related disorders. 

Wanting to connect support for Autism Speaks with his desire to run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1, Johnson applied for and was accepted to run for Team Autism Speaks in mid-June.

It was then that things took off, he said. 

His wife’s cousin, Lisa Kipps-Brown with Glerin Resources in Halifax, worked with the Johnson family to develop a Web site (www.cornerpiece.org) to tell their story. 

According to Johnson, they used the site to connect with a large group of people, and as a result of their contacts, they were able to organize and host a dinner/auction in Des Moines, Iowa with the help of numerous friends who wanted to help make a difference. 

“We had approximately 200 people attend the dinner/auction event and raised $18,000 that night.  Of particular note, we were able to get a Master’s Flag signed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player that sold for $800,” Johnson said.

Through these efforts and donations received from Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut, Iowa, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina and Washington D.C., the Johnsons were able to raise a total of $37,250 for Autism Speaks. 

“Given our goal was $7,500 initially, we were blown away by the success of this effort.  More importantly, we achieved our goal of creating awareness.  Between the dinner, Web site, Gazette Virginian article in August and a one-hour radio show we did in November, we estimate that we have reached over 100,000 people with our story,” he added.

Then it was time to go to New York and run the race. 

Johnson said he had a goal time of three hours and 40 minutes that he wanted to beat, and he had trained with two other friends who were running in the marathon also. 

As is tradition with marathon events, Autism Speaks hosted a pasta dinner for its team composed of 125 racers the night before the race. 

“They also provided Autism Speaks team jerseys for all of us.  The race was an awesome experience and terrific way to see New York,” Johnson continued.

Christina, his brother Wayne and his wife, Robin, (also originally from South Boston) were there to cheer him on. 

“They did what we coined the subway marathon to bounce around and see me at different spots.  In the end, I met my goal and finished in a time of three hours, 32 minutes and four seconds.  It was a great feeling throughout the three plus hours to be doing this to support my little boy and the many other kids who are dealing with Autism related disorders,” Johnson said.

Beating his target time made it that much more special, he added. 

To conclude the weekend, he and his wife were invited to join the president of Autism Speaks for a New York City Marathon Charity Partners Breakfast on Monday, Nov. 2.   

“We were selected since I was the top fundraiser for the Autism Speaks team.  This was a special way to wrap-up this effort since we got to share our story with the head of the organization and directly hear what they are doing to continue to provide support for children on the autism spectrum,” Johnson said.

Autism Speaks is doing some great things to pave the way for the future with school support, advocacy with medical benefits and continued awareness and research efforts. 

According to Johnson, Autism Speaks recently released a new study that shows that one out of 93 children (one out of 58 for boys) are being diagnosed with some form of autism.  This rate has increased from the previous rate of one in 150.      

“We just want to thank our hometown of South Boston for all the support we received.  With your support and the support of many others, we were able to make a difference in helping people better understand autism disorders.  With understanding comes support, and that is what Trevor and the many other kids need from their communities,” Johnson concluded.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the Johnson’s story, go to www.cornerpiece.org.  The home page has a six-minute video of Christina and Steven talking about Trevor’s diagnosis and how they have been working through it.)