Since he was a kindergartner at Pioneer Elementary School, Alex Totah has been surrounded by a network of friends who have always made sure he had the support he needed.
They were there for him in elementary school, during the often-challenging transition to junior high and now in high school.
And on Sunday, Oct. 14, they will once again be a part of Team Alex, participating in the Autism Speaks! walk in Sacramento to raise money and awareness for autism.
Alex himself has organized the team’s participation in the walk every year since 2008.
“I do it to help other kids with autism,” he said. ”And it’s a lot of fun. I like seeing all my friends and family.”
Money raised by Autism Speaks! funds services that help autistic children, including one-on-one therapy and other programs that Alex benefited from over the years.
“As a parent,” said his dad, Suheil Totah, “you often have to go out and find programs, be an advocate for your child. I think it’s great that there is this program laying the groundwork now for parents of children with autism.”
Since he began organizing his team back in sixth grade, Alex has been joined by as many as 60 friends and family members in the walk from Raley Field to the state Capitol and back. This year, students from Harper Junior High, Da Vinci Charter Academy and Davis High School are all participating, as are members of the Davis High varsity football team, of which Alex is a member.
Teammate Brendan McDonald is helping with recruitment efforts, Alex said.
The team raises about $1,000 every year, and donations are welcome from anyone — whether they plan to walk or not.
Learn more, sign up to walk or simply donate by visiting Alex’s Autism Speaks! page, http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1008215&team=5044466.
In addition to helping raise awareness and money to help others with autism, Alex has become more active politically as well. He joined Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on the floor of the state Senate several months ago for a formal declaration of Autism Month and he is volunteering for Rep. John Garamendi’s re-election campaign.
Politics are definitely in his future, he said.
Over the summer, he participated in a summer program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and is looking ahead to college — he’s currently a junior at Da Vinci. He hopes to go to school on the East Coast and major in political science.
“Alex has so many friends,” his dad said, “a network of friends since he was 5 years old. He is very lucky, and hopefully other kids with autism are lucky to have that support as well.”
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org of 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy