Doug Levy raced from Seattle to Portland in early July and raised $4,000 and counting for the Autism Society in the name of his nephew Jason.
August 9, 2011
By Doug Levy
The Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike race is
one of the 10 largest in the United States. The Cascade Bicycle Club
holds it each July and draws riders from throughout the United States
and other countries. In 2010 and 2011, the STP drew 10,000 riders, and
some applicants had to be turned away. In 2010, riders ranging in age
from 9 to 87 took part in the race. Entrants ride at their own pace and
have the choice of completing the ride in one day (15 percent of riders
do this) or two (85 percent). The 2011 race, which was 204.1 miles long,
was held July 9-10. The STP is also known for its scenery – it treats
riders to stunning up-close views of Lake Washington, Mount Rainier,
Mount Hood and the Columbia River.
I had ridden in the STP once before and decided to participate in the race a second time, partly to prove that I could do it after having had knee surgery in 2010. The other thing that drove me, however, was learning more about how many kids are now affected by autism. I read a recent article in PARADE magazine about autism, particularly about how hard it can be for kids with autism to get the help and services they need after they get out of school (read the article here). I asked my brother which organization would be most appropriate to direct contributions to in order to assist these individuals with training and employment placement post-graduation. He referred me to the Autism Society. It was then that I decided I could do something more powerful than simply write a check (though I did that also). I could, in fact, use my upcoming STP ride as a fundraiser for the Autism Society.
I am extremely proud to report that the “Pedal Power 4 Jason” fundraiser I organized through the Autism Society, and in Jason’s name, raised just a hair under $4,000! This contribution to the Autism Society was entirely electronic in nature, meaning there were no fundraising phone calls, letters or personal visits. I sent e-mails to friends, family and work associates. It’s humbling to know that nearly 100 people donated to the Autism Society through “Pedal Power 4 Jason.” One friend I haven’t seen in more than 20 years donated $250. A couple of people I have never met and probably never will meet went to my site and donated. Scores of others e-mailed to say that they have a relative or friend with autism. So many selfless people donated for a cause they believed in and for a young man in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area they will never personally know.
By the way, I finished the STP riding on an old 7-speed (most racers have 18- to 20-speed bikes or more!) and covering the 204 miles in about 21 hours, counting both riding time and food/rest stops. I did it over two days, riding nearly 120 miles the first day and the remainder the next. It’s hard to overstate how sore my rear end was and how my whole body ached. Yet, it is also hard to overstate how gratified I was by the generosity and heart-warming response I received from so many. The funds raised are a testament to the power of giving, and hopefully will provide the Autism Society some new tools and assistance for the critical work it does every day.
Lastly, I am grateful that the Autism Society is shining a spotlight on the very impressive young man who was the inspiration for this effort – Jason Levy.
My Nephew Jason Levy
Jason is 22 years old. He was born in Minneapolis and graduated from the Skills for Tomorrow High School, a charter school in St. Paul, Minn.
The Levy family has a proud tradition of being sports fanatics, but I cannot imagine a bigger sports fan than Jason. He loves going to Minnesota Twins (baseball), Vikings (football) and Timberwolves (basketball) games, but I think the Twins are his #1 love. Jason has also attended many sports events in other cities in his travels with his family. On one of my visits to see my brother and his family, we counted the number of professional and college football, baseball and basketball caps that Jason has collected – well over 100! Jason plays sports as well.
Jason is employed by Merrick, Inc., in Vadnais Heights, Minn. Merrick, Inc., is a private, non-profit (501(c)3) licensed by the Department of Human Services as a provider of day training and habilitation, supported employment and adult day services. Each day, a Merrick van picks up Jason at his house and drops him back home after work. Jason loves his job and is considered a very hard worker.
Jason lives in North Oaks, Minn., with my brother Ivan and his wife Mary. He does his own laundry, writes out the family’s shopping lists, takes out the garbage and recycling, and is in charge of numerous other household chores.
There is another thing about Jason that tells you the kind of kid he is: He never missed a single day of junior high or high school. He also shows up for work every day, and is never late for anything.
I also vividly remember my sister-in-law Mary telling me about a time she took Jason to an appointment at school and was walking through the hallways with him. She was bowled over by how many kids came up to say “Hi Jason!” or offer other words of encouragement to him. I think it would be virtually impossible not to like Jason Levy.
Touched by this story? You can still donate to Pedal Power 4 Jason.
The Autism Society recognizes the power that 1 person, 1 organization, 1 idea or 1 event can have on autism. Today, with the prevalence of autism rising to 1 in every 100 American children, everyone can make a difference and support the 1 mission of the Autism Society.
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