Six tired, sore but dedicated college students rolled across the finish line Sunday in Kittery, Maine, completing a remarkable 1,800-mile trip to raise money for autism.
"We’re still tallying the final contributions, but expect to top $120,000,” said Dan Tatar ’07 of Queensbury, N.Y., who created the "Rolling for Autism" campaign.
“The support has been amazing,” said Tatar, whose older brother Ben is autistic. “Dozens of Union College alumni came out to the events in New York City and Boston, and 15 or so skated nearly 100 miles with us."
The group is already looking ahead to next year, when they plan a couple of shorter trips; they have also been contacted by college students interested in a trip from Minnesota to Los Angeles.
Right now though, their focus is on finishing this year's mission.
“We’re planning to retain half the money raised within the organization to fund education and awareness programs,” Tatar explained. “We’ve targeted the other half to provide grants for children with autism to give kids life opportunities they wouldn’t normally be able to afford.”
Grants will be available for kids to participate in any autism-related activity or program including camps, schools or even therapeutic horseback riding. An application process should be available online in the coming weeks.
Joining Tatar on the trip, which began June 28 in Amelia Island, Fla., were fellow Class of 2007 members Kelly Lannan, Sean Streich, Jason Ortollano and Carson Strang, along with University of Vermont senior Amber Leenstra. The group in-line skated 40 miles a day, taking turns for half-hour stretches while the others followed in a car.
“This trip took on a life of its own with donations and support pouring in,” said Tatar, who majored in psychology. “We even received a donation from Belgium.”
Scheduled stops in major cities along the route featured cookouts and visits to local autism centers. The effort attracted widespread media attention, including an appearance on "Good Morning America."
“We were fortunate to have such an amazing network of support,” said Tatar. “Nate Leaman, Union College men’s hockey coach, trained us and hundreds of students and alumni have come out to support us. The College provided an amazing framework to network and make connections.”
Tatar chose Kittery, Maine as the finish line because of its proximity to Boston—where he starts his new job at Price Waterhouse Coopers Sept. 4.
Rolling for Autism has garnered support from the Autistic Society of America, American Special Hockey Association and other organizations. For more information, or to make a donation, visit http://www.rollingforautism.com/.