MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The Champion Autism Network comes from a place of understanding - understanding what families go through each and every day with a child or family member on the autism spectrum but also wanting to put the stigma aside - and speak up.
"Being outspoken, I have to, you know, we are always worried. Autism families, we are always worried about the judgment going out in public, and the judgment, and I deal with that every day. I am putting myself out there. I am terrified about this thing on NBC Nightly News because I don't know what kind of judgment there will be," said Becky Large, the founder of the Champion Autism Network.
Large is the mother of a son with autism and admits being a spokesperson for the cause hasn't been easy.
"I just have to just know that what I'm doing is right for the autism community and my families that I help and the organization. And I just have to put that aside and can't be motivated by fear," she added.
Instead, she reflects on how this all started. Back in 2014, Large started organizing free sensory-friendly movies in Myrtle Beach. As more and more families caught on, they wanted to know what else they could do with their kids. Large was all too familiar with the feeling.
"I remember how isolating it was and wanting to help them," she said.
Ever since, Large has worked with local and state officials to declare the Town of Surfside Beach an autism-friendly travel destination. She's trained area businesses and restaurants to better serve the needs of families and made traveling a bit easier with the Quiet Room in Myrtle Beach International. The latest initiative is the call to make state parks autism friendly.
"People had driven up to two hours to be there and there's something wonderful about being with your own people who understand and get you," she explained.
The event at Myrtle Beach State Park ignited that urge to keep going.
"So many happy faces and I just left feeling I have to do more of those," Large said.
In the meantime, Large wants families to keep hope in the possibilities.
"Just look around you. It's truly a network of champions of autism, I mean, it's just all working and I think there is great value in knowing we are not alone, we're not. It's, it's fabulous."
All of CAN's efforts are volunteer based. If you would like to donate to the cause, you can do so on the Champion Autism Network website. There, you can find all of the latest events and contact information to get involved.