Amy Anderson and her husband Eric have pledged to participate in the American Autism Association’s Virtual 5K: We Run the Spectrum to advocate for their son Jack by creating the “Jack Pack“.

Amy and Eric were inspired to create the Jack Pack because they previously have not participated in any fundraising or charity events for autism. Their three-year-old son Jack was diagnosed with autism in November of 2015. Amy was pregnant during most of the duration of last year, adding a new addition to their family. She came across the run at what she describes as “the perfect timing”, when she was just getting back into running again.

Being part of a military family and often moving from place to place, the run also offered the perfect opportunity for her extended family to get involved, even though they live far away. Since the run is virtual, the family can all run separately while collectively supporting Jack.

Amy was able to recruit members to the Pack by enlisting friends in her neighborhood that share a love for running.

Creating the Jack Pack has already helped her raise autism awareness because it was the first time she told many of her friends about Jack’s diagnosis. She describes the event as a “coming out party” of sorts. She recounts the understandable feeling of shock when a child is first diagnosed with autism and the necessary time needed to process the diagnosis. She explains posting on her Facebook page about Jack’s diagnosis made her feel vulnerable, but very good at the same time. She was pleasantly surprised by all of the support she received.

Amy and Eric ultimately want Jack to know they support him and aren’t afraid to tell people about his diagnosis or speak openly about autism. More importantly, they are not “embarrassed or ashamed”. As he is only three, Amy realizes Jack will not fully understand the run, though she wants him to know as he continues to grow that they have always and will always support him. Amy explains when she was growing up, people did not talk openly about autism, and it was oftentimes kept hidden or disregarded. She is happy she can now end that cycle and boldly advocate for Jack.

Amy’s fundraising goal is set to $500, as she was unsure how much people would be willing to offer. She was pleasantly surprised that with the help of friends and loved ones, she has almost reached that goal in the first three days. Amy, along with the rest of the Jack Pack, will begin their 5K run during the first weekend of April.

Amy describes Jack as a “wild crazy adventure” that she couldn’t imagine any other way.

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