Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate Fest Denver 2012: Spreading Autism Awareness

So yesterday I got to do something pretty darn fantastic. I went to Debate Fest in Denver, Colorado at the University of Denver. I was, quite frankly, a bundle of nervous energy. I was terrified. People from all over the world were there. Press, Secret Service, Politicians, crazy protesters, was CRAZY!!!! But I wasn't there to talk politics. I was there to raise awareness. Our goal was to get at least one candidate to mention Autism. We really need Autism to be on the agenda, because we need our voices heard. We deserve a voice and I was determined to have that voice heard.

I arrived in Denver around 11. We weren't allowed inside the Debate Fest area until 2. So...we sat at Starbucks for 3 hours. That was interesting. The people who went in and out were a mix of press and people all over the world. The team I was with would go up to the press and ask them to stop by our booth/tent and learn more about Autism Votes and etc. I'm a bit shy with the press. Then the Secret Service popped in. That was funny. One of the girls from the group ran up to them and asked if they were. They answered in the affirmative. I laughed. They were giving it away with their little ear wires sticking out. We wanted to take their picture, but...they thought we would post it on YouTube. Apparently YouTube is where you post pictures now...haha

Another amazing person we met was an illustrator from the NY Times. She saw my shirt and asked about Autism Votes. I proceeded to talk to her about it and then asked her about hers. She was from Artists Votes. She told me about her cause and why it was important. She then proceeded to tell me about what she did and what she was doing professionally. It was so cool! Meeting an artist of her stamina. I felt so honored!

So around 2, we all walked back to where our site was, wearing our awesome little amusement park credentials. Yes, our credentials were wristbands that you get at either a bar or an amusement was hilarious. I giggled. I looked around and saw all the other booths and tents. There were many different views, many I don't agree with, but yeah...I'm not going to write about that today. Ha.

The table was fixed and ready to go, when I noticed the sign was backwards. I asked if I could fix it. The ladies grabbed a few zip ties and I jumped on a chair to start hanging the sign back up. As I was getting down from fixing the sign, Fox news comes over and asks me to get back on the chair so they can get me in the camera hanging the sign. butt made the news. Awesome haha. I laughed so hard.

The next thing I got to do was a radio show...I've done one before, but not in public. HOLY COW I was a nervous wreck. There was a lot on the line for me to get everything right. I had a lot of information to get out in about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. I literally had no time. I was shaking in fear. I don't like public speaking at all. They handed me the microphone and I kept lowering it down to my knees. I wasn't sure I could do it. But then I remembered. This wasn't about me. This was about helping get more awareness. I wanted to help others. I needed to suck it up and just do it. Sure...I was near tears and shaking badly, but I got everything out. I said what I needed to say. It went quite well. I felt that I was able to get what I needed out and speak on behalf of my cause.

Debate Fest opened at 3 and went til 6. In that span of time, hundreds of people swarmed in. They came over to our booth and our team increased their awareness of what Autism Votes was about.  Now you may be wondering what Autism Votes is. What we want is a reform on insurance. Right now it doesn't cover all therapies for kids with Autism. And that's not right. We want Autism on the agenda of every politician. We want it addressed and we will continue to show up at every debate, every door, and I will be there with them as long as I'm able. I don't just want this for children but for adults. Children are covered but what happens to the adults. We aren't talking about that and that scares me for the future of our kids. I have a son to think about and so do many others.

Towards the end, I started getting, well in my words, pimped out the the media. LOL I went to all the major news stations, standing in front of their cameras so they could see the Autism Votes tee shirts. MTV panned a shot of our booth and happened to get me. I gave them a cheesy thumbs up. The cameraman laughed. Hey I got my 5 seconds on MTV! Bwhaha

I drove home and contemplated a lot. Why do I do this? Why do I drive out of my way, spending hours away from my kids, talking to people I don't know, publicly speaking when I am terrified, and all for free......I'll you why, because if I don't, who will? I have a voice and it must be heard. I want people to know why this is important and why you need to know that Autism isn't just going to disappear. We are going to continue to be out there. You can listen and I hope you will take something away from it. Because that's all I want. This is so important to me.

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