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Riding for a cause

For Mario Carey, who just completed his third 100-mile cycling event to raise awareness and funds for autism, cycling is more than a passion. It is a demanding commitment that has led him up hills, over rough terrains, along the shore and across countryside, biking hundreds of miles on Family Islands and in South Florida, rallying support for autistic children.

Carey’s most recent Ride4Autism added new steam to the campaign with his second 100-mile route in Long Island attracting semi-professional cyclists and members of a local cycling team. On November 20, with strong winds in their face, Carey and a group of six cyclists ventured out from Clarence Town to Gordon’s, then on to Seymour’s ending in Deal’s. Carey finished the physically demanding ride in six and-a-half hours with current Youth Caribbean Champion Jay Major and The Bahamas representative for the Commonwealth Games, Lawrence Jupp completing the route in just over five hours. Triathlon star Dr. Mark Davies joined the ride as did fellow rider Brad Heney, Ironman Stefan Krauskopf and Conchman Champion Simon Lowe. Exhausted, but elated, the group met with locals in a community church service when it was over. Their work of explaining autism to those who came to support them in Long Island had just begun.

“I learned so much about how to communicate with autistic children,” said Jeff Major, president of the JAR Cycling Club. “Our club has been very supportive of the cause and we hope it helps to get the word out about autism.”

For the past six years Carey has been a champion for children, parents and caregivers affected by autistic spectrum disorders. Every mile completed increases funding for REACH (Resources&Education for Autism and Related Challenges), a non-profit organization that assists those faced with the disorder. In November, Carey was elected president. But he gives pioneers like DeCosta Bethel who gave 12 years of his life to the cause all the credit.

“Doing these rides gives me a platform to talk about autism, to make people aware of how great the needs are, particularly for teachers who are trained in dealing with children with autism,” said Carey, president of Mario Carey Realty. “Everyone focuses on the bike ride, but it’s the thousands of e-mails that go out, the prep work, the radio shows, the news stories, getting people to ride or assist, meeting with communities, it’s all part of spreading the message about the importance of understanding autism so each child can reach his or her best potential and lead a happy, productive life.”

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills, though children with autism frequently score on the genius level on IQ tests.

A report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that autism and related disorders are more common than previously thought, although it is unclear if this is due to an increasing rate or an increased ability to diagnose the illness. Carey’s 13-year-old son Cole was diagnosed with autism at an early age and since then he has made it a point to shed light on the disorder. Improving the quality of diagnosis and treatment throughout The Bahamas, while heightening the awareness of the disability has become a lifelong goal.

Now, with others joining in, the ride may be strenuous, but there is more company that understands the journey.

“When Yodephy did their Strut for Life, a 60-mile walk, they raised $20,000, splitting the proceeds between R.E.A.C.H. and Sister, Sister, a support group for those with breast cancer,”said Carey.”We cannot thank them enough.”

“The resolve of these ladies to do what they did is just amazing,” said DeCosta Bethel. “At the end of the first day they had blisters on their toes but they were committed to finish the walk.”

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