• Annual 'Go Long For Luke' fundraiser benefits young adults with autism

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - A local family is using their personal struggle to help young people with autism become more independent.

    Channel 2 Action News was at the “Go Long For Luke” flag football tournament Saturday.

    The fundraiser -- held at Chastain Park in Buckhead -- was the idea of Luke’s twin sister and their friends. They came up with the idea a few years ago.

    Luke’s mother, Sandi Greenfield, got emotional while talking about efforts to establish group homes that help young adults with autism.

    “Unfortunately, when kids like my son age out of the school system, I’m sorry, there’s nowhere for them to go,” Greenfield said.

    Saturday's event raised $15,000 and Greenfield said donations are still coming in.

    About 120 people attended the fundraiser, and there were four flag football games with boys and girls.

    CLICK HERE for more information from the official “Go Long For Luke” website.

    BACKGROUND

    "Go Long For Luke” was created by Luke’s twin sister, Sophie, and another set of twins, Cole and Jesse Faller.

    They met in 2013 at an intergraded after school program in New York. They wanted to raise awareness and money for autism on behalf of Luke.

    “Since then, we’ve had four successful ‘Go Long For Luke’ flag football fundraisers in New York,” Greenfield said.

    The fundraiser was featured in ‘Sports Illustrated For Kids’ in 2015.

    “We’ve raised several thousand dollars and have given to organizations such as Autism Speaks, Community Mainstreaming Associates and other organizations that support autism,” Greenfield said.

    The fundraiser shifted to Atlanta this year after Luke and Sophie’s father got a promotion and the family moved here.

    “This was the fifth ‘Go Long For Luke’ event and the first at Chastain park in Atlanta,” Greenfield said. “A portion of the proceeds from this event will be going to the Jacob's Ladder School in Atlanta, where Luke attends.”

    Sophie was the force behind Saturday’s event, Greenfield said.

    “As a mother of a child with autism, it is not easy,” Greenfield said. “Luke is a fabulous boy who just turned 14. He is always happy. He understands everything, and he even understands several languages. Unfortunately, he’s nonverbal.”

    The family said they’re already looking forward to next year’s event.

    “We won’t stop!” Greenfield said. “Autism isn’t going away. We’ve embraced autism into our lives and we are so excited for the future of ‘Go Long For Luke.’”

    WHAT IS AUTISM?

    (Information below is from AutismSpeaks.org)

    Autism -- which affects an estimated 1 in 59 children -- refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.

    There isn’t just one autism but many subtypes, and each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges. A combination of genetic and environmental factors influences the development of autism.

    Autism often is accompanied by medical issues such as:

    • Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders
    • Seizures
    • Sleep disturbances

    Many people with autism also have sensory issues. These can include aversions to certain sights, sounds and other sensations.

    Autism’s hallmark signs usually appear by age 2 to 3. Often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier.

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