A Heartfelt letter from Brett Chancellor

I want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for your support of the First Step Walk.  All First Step causes I believe in and support.  But this particular event and the Tillman project strikes even a deeper sense of personal commitment and urgency.  Almost a decade ago, my wife and I had a child with Autism.  A child who did not speak, a child who was lagging on milestones, who had odd behaviors that we did not understand and my family found ourselves facing more questions than answers.  To understate it, we had quite a few dark days in the beginning.

As we started today, I thought about the similarities in our walk and raising a special child.  It was dark when we started but got a little brighter all along the way. Every step was difficult, some painful.  For every hill we climbed, we were met with another, and another and yet another.  There were times when I thought, “I can’t go another step, and one of my team (those with me and those driving by) would say, “come on, you can do it.”  Several times despite their belief, I was unsure.  But we made it.

This almost completely parallels what our families go through; dark days early on, but it gets better.  Difficult and even painful steps that have to be taken.  For every challenge met, another one ahead.  I think the greatest similarity and most important thing to think on is the team part.  I would have stopped long before my goal had my team mates not pushed.

To me that is the essence of what we are doing with The Walk/Tillman Project.  Pooling our efforts to provide that team that helps our families, take the steps, climb the hill, meet those goals.  Providing families with answers to those questions.  Providing people who make those darker days brighter.  Providing those who run along beside you and when you fall, say get up! Keep going!  And most importantly providing those who have the knowledge, skills and equipment to show you how to get up and keep going.

I mentioned earlier my son and our experience.  I have to tell you today, thanks to that team, which is only getting better!!!! We have a near teenager who talks, at times argues, really expressing himself well now.  It seems that the clothing we pick out is not longer agreed upon, which he voices well every day. It seems we have “discussions” on what time we need to go to bed.  It seems he asked to go to half a dozen places other than school every morning.  It seems things get a lot clearer for him and he seems to really understand when access to Nintendo DS or XBOX is in the balance.  We kayak, canoe, fish, ride four wheelers and sea doo(his favorite).  He packs his bags and calls his grandmother to come get himevery Friday night.

It would be less than honest for me to tell you that everything in our lives is without trouble, we still have obstacles, but who does not.  What I can without doubt tell you is we have many, many more good days, ………make that great days, than bad.  We are miles and miles down the road from those first early dark days I talked about.  Seems like a different child and family talking about it now.   Each and every member of that team we had, who made such a difference for us then, owns and helped make possible a little part of every great day we have today and for the rest of our lives.  Thank you all for taking the time to change our life.   Know that your efforts with Walk for the Children today will change the lives of many tomorrow.

After today’s walk, I’m headed home to recoup, I can’t help think of the words of that song, “I’m not as good as I once was but I’m as good once, as I ever was!!!!!!”

Thanks again for all your help!