It may be the biggest myth about autism out there: that kids on the spectrum can't form social relationships, that they don't feel for other people the way that "regular" people do. Try telling that to Christian Mast. The 10-year-old from upstate New York has tried everything from selling his toys to running a lemonade stand because he wants to help people. Now he's on a mission to sell 1 million puzzle piece placards to raise $1 million for Autism Speaks. Oh yeah, and Christian has autism.
Diagnosed at 5, the soon-to-be fourth grader also has a giant heart and feelings to match. Talking with The Stir, he told us frankly that he has autism and so does brother Carter (the boys have another brother, Camden, who has special needs but is not on the spectrum). For three years, Christian says, he's walked in the Walk for Autism. But this year, he wanted to do something different.
His mom, Erin Mast, is committee chair of the Central NY Community of Autism Speaks, and it was through her that he learned people could sell paper puzzle pieces -- the symbol of autism awareness -- to help boost the coffers of the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization. But they're not a store. They couldn't sell them at the register and post them on the wall for customers to see.
So Christian asked if he could do it at home. He wanted to sell 1 million, he said, 1 Million Pieces for Autism. His mom was so moved, she said yes.
The result is a PayPal account that accepts donations -- each of which is funnelled by the family straight to Autism Speaks. With the Central NY Walk for Autism set for October 2, currently the money is being put straight into Christian's walk account. They're reaching out to people via Facebook, a page simply called A Million Pieces for Autism. Erin says they'll leave it up until he hits his goal "whether it takes the rest of his life to get there!"
But the page isn't just about raising money. It's about raising awareness too. It's loaded down with videos of Christian talking about his cause. "We did that so people can see this is truly coming through him. This is him; this isn't our idea," Erin explained.
Because kids with autism don't know the myths. They just know what they feel.
Want to help Christian? Make checks out to Autism Speaks and send to: Autism Speaks, 10 Orchard Terrace, Sodus, NY 14551. Donations can also be made via Paypal under the email address email@example.com. All it takes is $1 to buy 1 puzzle piece!
Image via Christian Mast