MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – From sensory friendly movies and events to making the entire town of Surfside Beach autism friendly, to now giving families the opportunity to fly, the Champion Autism Network (CAN) is taking off.
Tuesday morning was an emotional one for Surfside Beach local Becky Large, who is the founder of CAN. She watched her own son with autism cut the ribbon to officially open the Quiet Room at the Myrtle Beach International Airport.
"Really overwhelming, and fabulous" was how Large described her feelings immediately after the ribbon cutting.
The Quiet Room is next to baggage claim at Myrtle Beach International Airport. Though it is a simple room, with chairs and raised cubbies, it is able to put a mother at ease.
From Large's understanding, this is only the second one in the United States.
"It is in our greatest challenges we discover our greatest joys," a local pastor said as he blessed the room.
"My 8-year-old son is autistic, and I feel that this room is a blessing," said Maria Cankurtaran, whose eyes filled with tears during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
She admitted she had just gone through a tough time traveling with her son.
"Well, we just came back from a family vacation early, because his cousins really didn't want to interact with him," Cankurtaran said. "So it really broke my heart. So the fact that I had my parents here with me today shows that education is key."
While the door to the Quiet Room shuts to provide peace after a long flight, an entire community is opening up.
"Part of why I'm doing what I'm doing is so people and families dealing with autism don't feel so alone," Large said. "And we're not alone. We're really building a fabulous community."
U.S. Congressman Tom Rice, who was also in attendance for the ceremony, said when he heard about CAN, he felt compelled to see the Quiet Room for himself.
"If we can do a little bit more to make ourselves accessible for a few more families, isn't that what we're all about?" Rice said.
Those who work with children with autism daily at Young Talkers Pediatric Speech Therapy believe this room will give families the push they need to really start living.
"I think that this will open things up to families, knowing that they have this option to bring their kids into this room," Nicole Young-Kline said. "I think it will encourage them to, you know, attempt to travel and try to travel more."