Raising Funds for Therapy through Luke’s Ride 2016 –
Luke’s Journey Fund to award grants to local families.–
By Karen Krejcha –
Families in the autism community face a daunting task when it comes to choosing therapy to help their children on the spectrum thrive. Because each person is unique and the characteristics of autism present at different levels of severity in each person, there is no one-size-fits-all support strategy that works for everyone. As a result, parents often experiment with a variety of options and interventions. It can become incredibly expensive and waiting lists are often long, both for families with state-supported and private insurance.
Like so many children on the spectrum, 11-year-old Luke has had struggles with sensory issues, awareness, communication, social situations and anxiety. He was diagnosed with severe autism at an early age and is currently nonverbal. Although on a strict diet, he’s also had a lot of stomach issues that have caused him a lot of pain. Fortunately, Luke has a tremendous team of educators, therapists, and medical professionals that have made a major impact on his development.
His dad, Doug Underwood is a very proud father.
“As his dad, of course I’m biased but I can honestly tell you that he’s the sweetest little boy in the world. He’s very happy and always smiling. He’s very social and engaging and he loves to please people. It has been amazing to watch how far he has come.”
But there have been costs.
“I was recently surprised with a $600 bill for medical and therapy expenses related to my son’s autism treatments,” Underwood says. “I hadn’t expected or planned for this particular expense but luckily I had the means to. I’m fortunate to have a good job and good insurance and can usually handle the unexpected.”
Underwood realized that many families may not be as financially fortunate and such a large unexpected expense could be crippling to some.
“There are so many helpful therapies and treatments for our kids on the spectrum that are either not covered by insurance or have limitations on the number of visits. What kind of tough choices are families having to make because of this? What if they don’t even have insurance? I hate the thought that some of these kids aren’t receiving all the help available due to lack of coverage or finances.”
Doug wanted to make a difference, so he approached Autism Empowerment with the vision of creating a special grant fund specifically to help local families with youth on the autism spectrum have better access to services they need that are financially out of their reach. Inspired by his son, the fund was to be called Luke’s Journey and depending on the amount of funds raised, eligible families would have the chance to apply for grants of up to $1,000.
Luke’s Journey Fund launched on March 3rd, 2016 in celebration of Luke’s 11th birthday. Since that time through word-of-mouth and contributions from Autism Empowerment’s Strike It Up for Autism Acceptance Bowl-A-Thon, the fund has already raised $1,275, a great start considering there had been little previous publicity.
The obvious question became how to raise a large amount of money so that as many families as possible could be served when the grant applications opened in Fall 2016. What kind of kick-off could be done that would be so big, so awesome and so inspiring that individuals, families and corporations would eagerly want to take part in the movement and donate to the cause?
The answer? Luke’s Ride 2016!
Doug shares, “Luke’s Ride will be using the popular STP (Seattle to Portland) bike event as a means to raise funds and awareness for Luke’s Journey Fund. STP is an annual bike event that that starts in Seattle and ends in Portland. There are about 10,000 riders from all over the world. The vast majority ride the 206 miles in two days, camping along the way. Luke’s Ride will be a small group of us attempting STP in one day.” He confessed, “I’m guessing that this will be the most physically and mentally challenging day of my life and I joke that it may be the very last day of my life too, but certainly the most rewarding. Hopefully, there’s no shame in crossing the finish line by ambulance.”
For such a worthy cause, Doug isn’t one to think small. “I’ve been thinking about the autism community and how I can give back for a long time now. Earlier this year it hit me that I was turning 50 on July 17th and that the annual STP bike event was scheduled for the same time.” Doug is not new to cycling, however with the ride being over 200 miles, he usually does it in two days. However with Luke’s Journey Fund launching, Doug figured he’d go big and bold. “I thought, hey, I’ve never done STP in one day before and I’ve never turned 50 before. So, the physical and mental challenge of riding my bike 206 miles in one day on such a milestone birthday could be a great way to raise money and awareness for the difficult journey these kids and their families are on.”
To raise support, acceptance and awareness for autism and to raise funds to support Luke’s Journey Fund, Doug, his girlfriend, Catharine and one of his best friends, Jeff will all be taking part in the ride. “Hopefully, as people learn about Luke’s Journey, the cause and the upcoming ride, they will be inspired to join our team on ride day. We plan to have matching bike jerseys with the Luke’s Ride logo so the more the merrier. Even if people can’t ride that distance or would prefer not to, we would love to see people join the team. Whether it’s in Seattle on ride day or from the Southwest Washington and Portland metro area locally, there are always ways to help and show support.
When asked what he wanted to accomplish by creating the Fund, Doug wanted to clarify that although this fund is inspired by his son, Luke will not benefit financially from funds raised. When asked about his vision, Doug expressed, “I want to see every child on the spectrum in our community be able to receive any and every therapy and treatment that their family and care team want them to receive. I don’t want insurance or lack of funds to ever be a barrier.”
“I’m hoping to see this grow into a recognized and valuable resource for the autism community here in the Portland/SW Washington area. I envision a fund that has the financial means, exposure and connections to help every single family that needs it.”
Luke’s Journey Fund welcomes private contributions and invites any and all interested members of the autism community and corporate world to become involved and share the vision. Since Autism Empowerment is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, donations are tax-deductible, and gifts made to Luke’s Journey Fund will be earmarked specifically for the program.
Here are ways you can help us reach our $25,000 goal and get more information!
- Visit the Luke’s Journey Fund program page at http://www.autismempowerment.org/programs/lukes-journey/
- Connect with Luke’s Journey via firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions, join Luke’s Ride 2016 or get involved as a volunteer.
- Help out with crowdfunding by sharing and contributing at https://www.commitchange.com/wa/vancouver/autism-empowerment/campaigns/lukes-journey-fund-at-autism-empowerment (Deadline is 8/31/16 for this campaign.)
- Donate online at www.AutismEmpowerment.org and designate your gift toward Luke’s Journey Fund (available to donate to any time)
- Mail a check payable to “Autism Empowerment” and send to:
- Autism Empowerment c/o Luke’s Journey Fund
- P.O. Box 871676
- Vancouver, WA 98687
- Autism Empowerment is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and contributions are tax-deductible where permissible by law.
Grant applications for Luke’s Journey Fund will start being accepted in 2017.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Spectrums Magazine.