Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Letter to the newspaper..... "We Have Our Son Back!"

Around the middle of April, I decided to write a letter to one of the local newspapers and outline what I thought would be an interesting "special interest" story for them. It was about the friendship Ashton and Marc share (which I've posted about a couple of times previously) and how much Marc has changed Ashton's life over the last year. I went back and forth with one of the editors a few times, but last week got a response from one fo the reporters. She's interested in covering the story and will be observing the guys this week before she actually writes the story sometime in mid-late June. Below is what I wrote in......


Our son, Ashton McCormick, is a 14-year-old eighth grade student at Hugo Owens Middle School in Chesapeake. He is a rider-athlete for a local running group known as Team Hoyt of Virginia Beach. This group pairs able-bodied runners with children and adults that have disabilities to compete in various road races and events. Nearly a year ago, we met Marc Leber, a now 17-year-old senior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in Suffolk. Marc, along with his mother, Andrea are competitive runners and had heard about Team Hoyt from a friend of theirs. The 2012 CHKD 8K race would be their first race with Team Hoyt and as fate would have it, they were paired up with Ashton. This first chance meeting between these two young men in June of 2012, would be the start of us getting our son back and would forever change the lives of both our family, and that of the Lebers.

You see, Ashton has Autism which causes him to show little to no emotion, he has poor communication and social skills and very often, he's in his own little world. Ashton also displays self-stimulatory behaviors that can be upsetting to someone who hasn't been around him before. He's never been a child who showed an interest in making friends with others.

However, something clicked between Ashton and Marc after that first race, and they've now completed 10 races together (with more to come!), ranging in distances of 5Ks up to a couple of half-marathons. But their friendship is about far more than the number of finish lines they have crossed together (many times in first place!), it's the special moments and experiences in between that has forged a friendship that will last a lifetime. 

The very fact that my son knows what a friend is, identifies someone as being his best friend, and can reciprocate the friendship in turn, is a testament to the patience and compassion Marc has displayed in getting to know Ashton. Marc has brought Ashton out of the shell of his Autism and we're catching glimpses of his sweet, humorous and amazing personality each day. Ashton is now, nearly a year after meeting Marc, a very happy and social kid. He enjoys going to school, he loves meeting new people and most of all, he loves to run and participate in races with Marc! He's found his niche in society and is enjoying himself, but more importantly, he's found that one true friend that will do anything for him. Marc has truly changed Ashton's life for the better, and we know Marc feels the same about Ashton.

So for all of this, we have to say Thank You to Marc. You've given us our son back. You've opened the doors and windows to his soul and we're finally learning things about Ashton that before we never knew about. You've made me a true believer in the youth of today. With so many horror stories about children with Autism being bullied, it's a true breath of fresh air to see the polar opposite in the loving friendship you and Ashton share. You two make an incredible team and we couldn't be more happy and blessed to know you and your incredible family. Thank you for being exactly the friend Ashton needed at the moment we least expected it . We'll never be able to forget it and will spend the rest of our lives showing you our appreciation for giving us our son back!