CONCORD, NC (WBTV) - Jan Thigpen's journey with autism is like that of a lot of parents. Her son Sawyer's diagnosis, doesn't leave her with nagging thoughts of what if, but instead it's about the hope of what can be.
"We are blessed by Sawyer in more ways than we could ever share," said Thigpen. "Our eyes are more open, our hearts touched and filled."
Sawyer was diagnosed with non-verbal autism two years ago when he was three-and-a-half years old. One in 68 children have some form of the developmental disorder. Autism is not one thing, it is considered a spectrum disorder meaning it affects people in different ways. As for a cause, it is believed genetics and environmental factors both play a role.
(If you know someone diagnosed with autism click here for an Autism Speaks 100 Day Tool Kit)
The Thigpen's are now working to raise money for Autism Speaks to fund research, advocacy and awareness. Last year, her family, for the first time had a walk team of their own at the Greater Charlotte Autism Speaks Walk. This year's event at zMax Dragway is scheduled for October 22nd and the Thigpen's will be there in force.
"(The walk) is life changing!" said Thigpen. "It encouraged me and for the first time I felt like I wasn't alone."
Her family's walk team is called "Saw's Dawgs" and their taking their efforts to raise money a new level this year. They are hosting the "Saw's Dawgs Car Show and Cruise In." The event is coming up on September 25th at Garafola's Restaurant at 3655 Concord Parkway in Concord. The event starts at noon and goes until 6pm. There will be live entertainment, a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle. Car owners who make a $20 donation can take part in the Cruise In. There will also be trophies available to best cars in several different categories.
"I was empowered to take a stand for my son and all the ones like him to be their voice," said Thigpen. "To raise awareness is my every last breath now."
You can donate to the "Saw's Dawgs" walk team directly by clicking here.
"May we continue to learn and grow more in knowledge and love in our journey with Sawyer and for all the millions of others who are affected by autism," said Thigpen.
Click here to start your own Autism Speaks Walk team, or to make a donation.