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Family launched Zipping for Autism to help charities & celebrate teen’s birthday

Our Persons of the Week launched a fundraiser that is especially close to home. Jeff and Sheena Greiner, in honor of son O’Reilly, started Zipping for Autism in 2012 to raise money for various autism-related causes that are a lifeline to families here in the mountains. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Our Persons of the Week launched a fundraiser that is especially close to home. Jeff and Sheena Greiner, in honor of son O’Reilly, started Zipping for Autism in 2012 to raise money for various autism-related causes that are a lifeline to families here in the mountains.

"It's always the first Sunday in June. His birthday is June 4,” Sheena explained.

O’Reilly turns 16 this year. Together, they've made helping others with autism a birthday tradition.

They own the Adventure Center of Asheville, so, for them, it's the perfect venue to give back.

"I think we raised 20-something thousand that first year,” Sheena said.

“We were floored!” Jeff said.

Schools, businesses, churches form zip-lining teams to help and have fun. In six years, the event's raised $200,000 for autism-related causes.

"The one thing that it does -- stay in Western North Carolina,” Jeff said of the proceeds. “We've worked with the Autism Society in the past. We worked with Lakey Gap, which has a camp in Black Mountain but they are also expanding service to fill some of the gaps."

"And it's very important to get an early diagnosis because you can start therapies and treatment at a much younger age,” Sheena said. “And that's part of what our Zipping for Autism, when we originally started it, was for -- diagnostics to help with that."

O'Reilly, who was diagnosed with autism before he was three years old, is mature enough to see every birthday as an opportunity.

“If I had have been diagnosed when I was a little bit older and in elementary school already, I don't know where I'd be at. I might not be this far,” O’Reilly said.

"People helped me, and now I'm able to help people that maybe can't do everything my parents helped me with,” he said. “And that happens around my birthday, makes me feel special."

"You know I love everything about him,” Sheena said of her son. “I can't imagine my child not being autistic. That is simply who he is."

Twenty-one touching words about autism that say so much.

"People with autism, they're no less than anyone else,” O’Reilly said. “Their brain is just structured differently. "

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