SYKESVILLE — A little boy from Rockton will be leading a tribe of followers in the 2019 Run or Walk for Someone Special on April 7.
The event, held by the Art of Jefferson and Clearfield Counties in Sykesville, is in its 40th year.
Six-year-old Rocco Frantz, who is in kindergarten at Wasson Elementary School, was diagnosed with autism in February of last year, according to his mom, Jessica Frantz. About eight months ago, she decided to start posting about her son’s story on social media, making her personal page public.
Sharing the everyday trials and milestones Rocco has overcome is her way of spreading awareness and education about autism, Frantz says.
“I have decided not only to share the beautiful, most amazing progress that our little guy makes, but the tough stuff, too,” she said in a recent Facebook post.
Before she had Rocco, Frantz worked hand-in-hand with people with intellectual disabilites, she said. Still, she and her son have their hard days, and she isn’t afraid to share them with the world.
“I always try to put a lesson with everything I post,” she said. “We live in a small community, and there isn’t enough awareness. The more you know, the easier it is to accept.”
Other parents of autistic children have commented and shared with Frantz, too, grateful for the connection, she said.
“People are so invested in our story,” she said. “It has made me feel so overwhelmed and very blessed.”
Rocco has been progressing, beating the odds both communication-wise and academically, Frantz says. He’s experienced many “firsts” this year.
Parents of children with autism don’t have to give up their dreams, Frantz said, like the hope their child will ever play sports. Rocco will be starting T-ball for a Luthersburg team.
Frantz has also become a consultant for CBD (Cannabidiol) oil, a product of cannabis plants. It can offer several benefits, such as reducing anxiety and depression, heart health, relieving pain and neurological disorder benefits, she said.
In Rocco’s case, Frantz said, it has been a blessing, including helping him sleep better at night, improved attention span and making him “more present.” She calls him a “trailblazer,” always pushing through whatever is thrown his way.
There are about 15 members in Rocco’s “tribe,” Frantz said, but many more community supporters. “Two Brother T’s” of DuBois created an autism awareness shirt with Rocco’s logo on it, and every $5 donation goes toward the walk. In recognition of Autism Awareness Month in April, the shirts are blue.
So far, just by sharing their story online, they have raised about $825 for the walk, Frantz said. All donations stay local and help sponsor activities through the the Arc of Jefferson and Clearfield Counties for those with special needs, she said.
If someone has met a child or person with autism, they’ve only met one person with autism, Frantz says. She said it is important for people to keep an open mind and have compassion and understanding for those who are different.
Frantz says she hopes to have a Rocco’s Tribe team each year for the walk.
“If autism has taught us one thing, it’s to celebrate everything,” she said. “it has been my biggest life lesson. My hope is we keep making a huge impact.”
To donate to Rocco’s team, visit www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/jessica-frantz-1/RunWalk40. For more on the 2019 Run or Walk for Someone Special, visit jcarc.org/runwalk.html.