Operation Jack started as an attempt I made to race at least one marathon a week in 2010 (61 total for the year, plus two ultramarathons) to generate attention to raise funds and nationwide awareness for Train 4 Autism, an organization that works tirelessly to raise money for Autism charities.
But I decided that was only the beginning. As I wrote in April 2011, Operation Jack is my never-ending quest to help causes in need, one charitable act at a time. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. But I have faith I’ll get it done. That’s what Operation Jack is.
Along with my wife of 15 years, Tiffany, I’m raising three children — Benjamin (13), Jack (11) and Ava (8). Jack, born September 16, 2003, was diagnosed with autism shortly after he turned 3, although he has been in constant therapy and treatment since before his second birthday. He is showing signs of progress, but has very limited speech and struggles with communication and social interaction.
After watching my son struggle day after day with his condition, I decided I wanted to do something to make a difference in his honor. My plan was Operation Jack. I figured I wouldn’t have done it if not for my son’s autism, so everything that has been and will be accomplished is an impact Jack makes on the world. Jack’s footprint will grow over the years as long-term gains come to fruition. To date, through the Operation Jack Autism Foundation, we’ve grossed more than $270,000.
Completing a difficult challenge is nothing new for me, though. After breaking my neck in a swimming-pool accident when I was 16, I was lucky to have use of my legs. Later, after taking terrible care of myself in college, my weight soared to 261 pounds. I’m a former smoker and started in walking in late 2004. Walking turned into slow jogging, and eventually, slow jogging turned into my first marathon.
Through October 2014, I’ve completed 111 marathons and five ultramarathons. I have 28 Boston qualifiers and a personal-best time of 2:57:53. As tough as Operation Jack was in 2010, though, it’s nothing compared to the daily grind Jack suffers through as he battles with autism, the neurological disorder affecting 1 in 42 boys nationwide.
Like Jack, I will always fight autism.