Ski Instructor and Safari Guide Cycle across America to Raise Funds for Research Autism

Alex Willan and William Rudd. (Photo by: Bernard Fleming/Research Autism)

William Rudd and Alex Willan are two exceptional young men whose lives have been deeply touched by a 13-year-old boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

His name is Jamie. No one knows the sound of his voice. He cannot talk. His world is silent and at times, frustrating. He is Rudd’s cousin. And he (Rudd) has witnessed firsthand the effects Jamie’s illness has on his (Jamie) life and that of his family and extended families.

ASD has no known cure. And researchers have not been able to find an exact cause for its attack on children. Symptoms usually manifest around age two. Research continues into its mystifying origin.

Willan and Rudd, two secondary school friends, who lives in the United Kingdom, journeyed to the United States of America on a laudable fund raising feat for Research Autism. Their aim: to raise £25,000 cycling from New York to San Francisco.

On his personal page on the JustGiving website, through which donations are made for Research Autism, William wrote of Jamie’s disorder in the following words.

“Imagine not being able to talk. Imagine understanding everything going on around you, but not being able to comment. Imagine having to be dressed every morning in clothes you don’t choose, and then hurting your parents as you try to tell them you wanted the blue shirt today. Imagine being swamped by having to hear everything that everyone is saying around you, and not being able to listen to just one thing at once.”

He wrote about Jamie’s love for floating in a swimming pool, “legs held motionless by the weight of the water,” his ears underwater, hearing nothing, to help him relax. He noted that Jamie “understands everything and appears to have a photographic memory, except, he is unable to release his thoughts. Frustration leads to despair, and anger, which is just one of the many things that his family has to deal with. He has extremely specific eating requirements and requires round the clock supervision.

He stated that Jamie’s disorder was severe and added that while many children suffered with the disorder “it is shocking that so little is known about it.” The page expires on November 30, 2014.

The journey which started on April 25, 2010, took the men through 17 states, among them, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. They cycled across The Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains, braved freezing temperatures and high altitudes, and, after 64 days of cycling, rode into San Francisco, on June 27, 2010. It was the end of their journey.

They had covered 3,878 miles and raised £18,607.09. The fund raising drive is still on and anyone who wishes to donate to the cause can visit http://www.justgiving.com/researchautism and set up a page to help Rudd and Willan achieve their goal.

Rudd has spent most of his life in Kenya and is a certified safari guide and sailing instructor. Willan is a BASI ski instructor. They will enter university later this year to study Geography.

We wanted to raise money and awareness for autism by doing something different and challenging before entering University and cycling across America fills both those roles,” he wrote on his blog which provided a comprehensive account of their journey.

Research Autism is a United Kingdom charitable organization solely focused on ASD. It conducts research on health, educational, psychological and social intervention as it relates to the disorder.

JustGiving, the UK’s first online fundraising website was founded in 2000 by Zarine Kharas and Anne-Marie Huby. Since then over 9,000 charities have joined and the site has raised some £700 million in donations.

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