HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Chris Wauben, a resident of Holiday, Florida, hopes to keep a promise made to his 9 year old autistic son, Simon: Hiking the Appalachian Trail in order to raise awareness of autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States, affecting communication and social skills. Wauben began by sharing the trials Simon has faced throughout the years.
“On March 25, 2010, Simon was born, named after Simon Lebon from Duran Duran,” Wauben, Simon’s father, said. “Although we suspected that he had Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) all along, it wasn’t until 3 years ago that he was officially diagnosed with it. He is what is called high functioning as far as the spectrum goes. It took a long time for him to talk, he was speech delayed for a long time. Kids picked on and bullied him. Even teachers and coaches seemed to not always be nice to him. At one of the many schools he went to, I found out he was eating all alone in the cafeteria because he didn’t have any friends. So when I could, I would go to his school and eat with him in the cafeteria.
“Other than me (his father) and his mother, at age 9, he still has no friends. There was this one kid down the street he played with for a short time, but even he stopped coming around. Nobody from his class showed up for his birthday party last year, and he was absolutely heartbroken and cried all day…It is the most horrible thing to see your child go through. Since his official diagnosis I have been a big advocate for autism awareness, doing songs and videos and flag runs for the cause. As a father, I tell Simon a million times a day that I love him, that he is smart, amazing, and the greatest thing ever in my life. Despite all the stuff he has gone through, my wife and I pour an incredible amount of love onto him which I think is why he is still such a happy and loving and caring kid.”
“Well, for years we had dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and last June on Father’s Day we took the first step in making that dream come true. Not far from Helen, Georgia – where we were staying for a weekend vacation – from the Unicoi Gap, we hiked the Appalachian Trail up to the top of Rocky Mountain. Along the way, my son asked me, ‘Dad is this your dream come true?’ and then I turned and said, ‘Yes it is, but do you know what my biggest dream come true is? You, my son.’ So after that most amazing of moments, we hiked to the top of the mountain, and gazed out over the mountains in the distance. From there, we made a pact to make it our mission to section hike the rest of the Appalachian Trail together. The next day we drove back to our home in Holiday, Florida. Every minute since we left has been filled with the obsessive desire to get back into the mountains and hike the AT. Not long ago, I created a Go Fund Me campaign, and so far we have not been very successful, but we will not give up.”
Simon Wauben sent a touching video to FYN, asking for the news outlet’s assistance in helping make their dream of hiking the famed trail a reality.
Click to view: The Appalachian Trail Autism Awareness Fundraising Campaign