Jaci Velasquez Walks for Autism

Jaci Velasquez (2012)
(Photo : Inpop )
Jaci Velasquez
Earlier this year, when award-winning Latina recording artist Jaci Velasquez and her equally popular husband, Salvador co-founder and lead singer Nic Gonzales, were told that their five year-old son, Zealand, had autism, a brain disorder that affects 1 in 88 American children, they suddenly became very aware of the impact an autism diagnosis has on families. They learned that a single word - "autistic" - could change the way people looked at their child and that one word brought with it a whole slew of expectations that not always correct.

Rather than curling up in a ball and deciding that one personal battle was enough, she headed straight to the front line, teaming with Autism Speaks to speak up and speak out for the organization that works so hard to help those families impacted by autism. She became the official spokesperson for 2013's Tennessee Walk Now fundraiser. "Coming to terms with a child's diagnosis, especially when it's your child, is not an easy thing to do right off the bat," Jaci said in a press release. "We are all living in a society where labels hold a significant amount of influence. By associating with Autism Speaks, I can champion an advocacy organization that sponsors autism research, hosts awareness and outreach activities for families and the public, and is working to change the way the nation looks at autism."

"I am honored and humbled to take on the responsibilities of being the spokesperson of 2013," she continued. "Although the emotions that I am feeling are unfamiliar and uncharted, I find comfort and unwavering support through my faith, family and both old and new friends alike."

Velasquez represented Autism Speaks Tennessee at several major fall events, including the Autism Speaks Kick-Off Celebration, the Autism Speaks Presents Autism Sings! concert, and the Autism Speaks Tennessee Walk Now fundraiser in Nashville, Tennessee, which raised $120,963 when it was held on October 5, 2013.

As she learns first-hand what the challenges of having an austic child are, she becomes more determined to find the joys as well. "What Zealand has taught me, and continues to teach me each day is that societal labels don't mean a thing," Jaci shared. "I see and hear 'genius' when I read and hear 'autistic'. Being diagnosed with autism is to be presented with an original gift. My mission is to harvest the gifts that Zealand has been given and not overlook them. I will not overlook Zealand's gift, and I want to encourage everyone else too...DO NOT MISS THE GIFT!!"



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