The Team Mary 5K Run/Walk for Autism is scheduled for Sunday at Gem Beach Marina, 3000 North Carolina Street.
Registration begins at 9 a.m., and the race begins at 10 a.m. Those who have pre-registered can get their bibs and T-shirts from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. the day before at Rudder’s, across Ohio 53 North from the entrance to Gem Beach.
For two years, the “Team Mary” event was part of the Glass City Marathon. This is the third year the 5K has been held as a stand-alone event at Gem Beach.
Mary Lucas is a 9-year-old who has autism. Her mother, Erin, said the money raised from the 5K will benefit the Advocacy and Resource Center of Ottawa County — specifically, to the camp run by the ARC every year.
“It’s a summer program for kids with special needs in Ottawa County,” Erin Lucas said. The camp provides activities and opportunities for the children to socialize. They do things many children do at camp, including going on field trips and swimming.
“Mary, she is a delightful little girl. She is non-verbal. She pretty much needs assistance for most things. She really can’t do anything independently,” the mother said.
Like any other parent, Lucas appreciates the fact that the camp gives her some help with Mary’s care during the summer months. “It’s a break for the parents,” she said.
Like any other parent, she also wants her child to be accepted by others.
“I started doing this to raise awareness,” she said. “From the time that Mary went to school, I’ve always wanted typical peers to be aware of Mary.”
She hopes that the other children will see Mary for who she is and become accustomed to the fact that people have different needs, behaviors and forms of communication.
“I never wanted her to be an outcast.”
Lucas said one of her favorite things about the annual 5K is the feeling of support her family receives from the community.
Other parents get to celebrate their children’s successes like sporting events, good grades and school plays on a regular basis.
“It’s a special day,” Lucas said. “I feel like it’s a ‘big day.’ Most parents get these ‘big days’ all year long.”
The day of the annual Team Mary event is like that for Mary’s family.
“To me, this is her ‘big day’ where she’s celebrated, and all kids like her are celebrated,” she said.
For information on the event, contact Erin Lucas at 734-223-5752 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available on the Team Mary Facebook page.