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When Jonathan first started with the Rolling Thunder Special Needs Running club, he couldn't finish a lap around the track without stopping 10-15 times. For months he struggled to understand the sport of running, but with dedication and an amazing coach named Vincent...Jonathan went from struggling to finish 5ks to completing numerous marathons!!
Anything is possible, no matter what challenges you might face!
My name is Verlaine Brunot and this is the story about how running changed the life of my brother Jonathan who has AUTISM
Jonathan was born in 1989; a healthy child with an expressive personality. He had lots of eye contact, and his vocabulary built steadily as he began to learn to speak. However, when he was about 2 ½ years of age, he began to regress dramatically. His eye contact became non-existent and the few words and even phrases he had mastered in the previous months slipped away into completely non-verbal interaction. Jonathan would later be diagnosed as severely autistic, a prognosis that meant he could never develop “typical” brain function for his age.
Just. Like. That.
Autism is a lifelong, pervasive disorder. However, no matter how difficult the circumstances; an autistic person is only limited by the limits we put upon them. Case in point, our amazing mother Olga. She always taught us that Jonathan wasn’t merely an “autistic” individual, but rather we were an “autistic” family. It was incumbent upon us as a family to do whatever we could to help Jonathan navigate through this difficult world. That is why throughout Jonathan’s adolescence; my mother contacted many different special needs programs to enroll Jonathan in as many extracurricular activities as possible. Since Jonathan wasn’t capable of telling us what new things he wanted to try, we effectively had to “throw him in the deep end” so to speak and immerse him in EVERYTHING.
We signed him up for a bowling league, took him to horseback riding, as well as registered him for a special needs basketball league. These activities gave Jonathan an outlet in order to expend all his energy as well as to help him assimilate “normal” activities like his older siblings. Jonathan was not always enthusiastic or attentive during some of these activities; however our mother was still determined to at least give him as much exposure as possible to these different environments.
It was precisely this determination and persistence that prompted my mother to have Jonathan join a special needs running club called ROLLING THUNDER. The selfless volunteer coaches at Rolling Thunder specialized in assisted running with the mentally disabled and they welcomed Jonathan with open arms.
When Jonathan first joined the running club, he struggled tremendously. For the first couple of weeks, Jon could not run more then 10-15 yard without stopping, or getting distracted or wanting to lie down. In fact, Olga began running side by side with Jonathan, at times gripping his belt and effectively pulling him along the trails. Even after 2 months of practices, Jonathan was still not really grasping the concept of running. Olga was nearly ready to have him quit, both as a result of her fatigue from constantly pulling him and Jonathan’s inability to connect with the sport.
The leader of Rolling Thunder, Steve Cuomo, encouraged Olga to not give up on Jonathan and worked with her to help Jonathan continue running. That led to the fateful day when Mr. Cuomo introduced Olga to a running coach named Vincent Delcid. Over the upcoming months, Vincent was able to teach Jonathan to pace himself, and stretch, as well as how to approach hills and to sprint at the finish line. Over time, Jonathan developed a great “coach – athlete” relationship with Vincent during their runs and really began to embrace the sport. After several months of running, coach Vincent REALLY upped the ante. He could see that Jonathan was really enjoying their runs and was getting faster and faster by the day. Coach Vincent told us that he wanted Jonathan to run the NYC Marathon.
Yes, THE NYC MARATHON. 26.2 long, difficult miles across all the boroughs of Manhattan!
We as a family put our faith in Coach Vincent and on Nov. 2nd, 2008, Jonathan completed his first marathon!!!
Jonathan just ran his 23rd