Running under the names of Wing Nuts, A Wing and a Prayer, Wingin’ It, Winging It 4 D, and Shagnar, five teams of 12 runners each set out Friday morning, May 9, from Hull, Mass., on a 192-mile relay run to support Dylan’s Wings Of Change. They were among nearly 600 Ragnar Relay Cape Cod teams overall, racing for 30 hours to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod, to raise money for favorite charities.
Dylan’s Wings of Change is the foundation set up by Nicole and Ian Hockley to honor the memory of their son, Dylan, one of 20 children who perished 12/14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Dylan had autism,” said his father, Ian Hockley, reflecting Monday, May 19, on the successful Cape Cod fundraiser. “He was always interested in his ‘gadgets,’ the tablets and phones and such. What we perceive is that more research is needed to find the best apps for educators to use with children on the spectrum,” Mr Hockley said.
The fledgling nonprofit, Dylan’s Wings of Change, is intended to provide children on the spectrum with technology that can help develop intellectual and academic skills. Dylan had already begun finding success with applications that assisted his communication skills, said Mr Hockley, aided by his teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who also died 12/14. Like typical children, children on the spectrum learn differently, he said, and various apps and types of devices are needed to best help these children develop to their fullest potentials.
“A lot of evidence is anecdotal. We want to consolidate research and prepare it in a way that schools and parents can use this evidence-based information,” Mr Hockley said.
Purchase of technology and proper training is costly, said the Hockleys, and this is where funds from foundations such as Dylan’s Wings of Change can help.
Their foundation is also meant to create initiatives and financially support inclusive community athletic programs, bringing together typical children and children with autism and related conditions.
As of May 19, nearly $60,000 had been raised from the Ragnar Relay Cape Cod event, with additional funds continuing to come in. “It’s the biggest event we’ve had,” said Mr Hockley. The decision to take part in the Ragnar Relay Cape Cod came from the suggestion of a member of Xtreme Fitness martial Arts, where the Hockley family has worked out as a family since before the 12/14 tragedy.
“Xtreme Fitness was part of the community that helped us after 12/14,” Ms Hockley said. It did not take long to find enough team members to make up the five teams. Staff from Sandy Hook Promise, where Ms Hockley currently works as communications director, friends, family, and townspeople made up the 67 people — including drivers — that ran for Dylan’s Wings of Change. Mr Hockley, a regular runner, ran for A Wing and A Prayer. A hip injury sidelined his wife, but she took part as a driver for the Winging It 4 D team.
Jake, the Hockley’s surviving son, is not quite ready for a long-distance relay race, at age 9, said his father. The following weekend, though, Jake finished his first 5K alongside Mr Hockley, at the O’Neill’s 5K Race in Norwalk.
The O’Neill’s 5 K is in memory of Paul and Kat Curtin’s 6-year-old daughter, Annie, who died four years ago of a ruptured brain aneurysm. The O’Neill’s 5K this year was to benefit Dylan’s Wings of Change, for which they are most grateful, said the Hockleys.
“In terms of tangibility, [that kind of financial support] allows us to make grants to town and school sports teams for the additional support needed for inclusive programming,” Ms Hockley said. Coaches need additional training to work with autistic children, she said. “It’s a different pace, more one-on-one is needed, and that costs more money. A grant to a sports club can help families offset the cost of taking part,” she added. Because families with a child on the spectrum incur many other costs, it is not always feasible to pay for an expensive sports hobby, as well.
“We want to make sure that special needs kids are getting the same level of support as typically developing children,” Ms Hockley said.
Fundraising and running a foundation is all new to them, said Ms Hockley. They are thankful for the many who have donated to Dylan’s Wings of Change, particularly those who took on the formidable feat of the Cape Cod race.
Not only the Hockley’s foundation benefited from the pre-Mother’s day race on Cape Cod, pointed out Mr Hockley. Many other teams, some supporting foundations set up to honor other victims of 12/14, raced the course. “They run to support causes for other charities, as well,” he said.
According to Ragnar Relay Cape Cod spokesperson Elise Timothy, the Ragnar Cape Cod race “is also supporting Sandy Hook Elementary via a $2,200 donation to the Newtown Memorial Fund that will go toward creating a sustainable fund to provide for the immediate and ongoing needs of those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. The needs supported by the donation range from constructing a physical memorial honoring the lives lost to establishing academic scholarship funds. It is just one of many nonprofit/charitable organizations that Ragnar Cape Cod will benefit.”
One thing that Nicole, Ian, and Jake are not able to run away from, though, is the reason Dylan’s Wings of Change has come to be. “It’s hard,” admitted Ms Hockley, “but it’s a wonderful experience. We’re going to keep doing different functions and awareness events, and even have some pilot programs coming up.”
“Running for Dylan,” agreed Mr Hockley, is hard. “But it’s a community of people, supporting each other.”