Last season Towson head coach Pat Skerry and then-Marshall head coach Tom Herrion, who’s now an assistant at Georgia Tech, began an initiative in college basketball geared towards supporting those who have autism and their families. The cause is a personal one for both coaches, as they’re raising children who are on the autism spectrum.
This weekend coaches across the country are participating in the “Coaches Powering Forward for Autism” campaign, and they’ll be wearing a blue puzzle piece lapel pin. Friday, Towson announced that its basketball team will wear special light blue uniforms for its game Saturday against James Madison.
Saturday’s game is Towson’s annual Autism Awareness Game. According to the Autism Speaks website, one in every 68 children (one in every 42 boys) is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. For this weekend, the goal of raising $6,800 per school (representing the 1:68 ratio) has been set.
Coaches to observe Autism Awareness Day on Saturday
Saturday represents an important day in college basketball, and not solely because of some of the big games on the schedule. February 1 is also Autism Awareness Day in college basketball, with many coaches across the country donning lapel pins in support of the cause. The pins are in the shape of a puzzle piece, which represents the “missing piece” that children have have been diagnosed with autism lack.
Two coaches at the forefront in this campaign are Towson’s Pat Skerry and Marshall’s Tom Herrion, both of whom are the parents of autistic children. With the goal being to educate people about an issue that affects one in every 88 children (1 in every 54 boys), Skerry and Herrion reached out to many of their colleagues in the profession during the offseason.
“Coach Skerry and me were the ones to contact these coaches directly,” Herrion said in an interview conducted by Autism Speaks earlier this week. “There has been complete support across the board. Autism Speaks and college basketball will be together on this day. Pat and I have good programs but when we can get the rock stars of our industry on board, Coach K, Jim Boeheim, Coach Self, Calipari and all the others on board including the media you know you have something special.”
In yesterday’s Washington Post, Alex Prewitt wrote a story on Skerry and how he and his wife navigate the daily challenges that come with raising a child diagnosed with autism. The task can be even tougher for parents in states like Maryland, which according to the story is one of 16 states that doesn’t have health insurance coverage for autism.
And that fact, with many struggling with the financial aspects of raising a child with autism, is one thing that makes days like Saturday so important.