By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen
AUTISM AWARENESS – A recent pitch represented unlimited possibilities for the entire autism community.
When 11-year-old Tatum Homec, of the Autism Academy for Education and Development stepped in front of the pitcher’s mound, the compassionate crowd cheered. AAED Tempe teacher Leslie Huffman nominated Tatum for the big pitch.
“She has achieved so much in her time at the Autism Academy,” Huffman said. “She accepts every challenge with courage and grace.”
She was selected to throw the first pitch of the Friday night April 12th game against the San Diego Padres. Chase Field baseball park, Home of the Diamondbacks, seats over 48,000 guests, and the Phoenix major league team hosts Autism Awareness Night annually.
As Johanna Imperial of Diamondbacks hospitality escorted Tatum to the baseball diamond, roaring support echoed throughout the stadium. Geared up for the occasion, complete with a baseball and pink glove, she faced her fears and gave fans a fiery sense of inspiration.
Tatum harnessed her anxiety and adrenalin, successfully slinging an overhanded pitch toward home plate.
She did it!
Tatum’s big pitch made countless people extremely proud. The Homec family, dad and mom, Trent and Audry, and 15-year-old brother Jayden, proudly snapped pictures, stood nearby and smiled on the field.
This means a lot, “said Audry Homec. “As a parent, having a chance to see your daughter participate in a once in lifetime event representing her school is emotional and exciting.”
Trent helped his daughter prepare for the big day – and it paid off. Tatum’s big pitch raised awareness for more than 3.5 million Americans on the autism spectrum. During the annual event, tickets are sold at discounted rates, and a portion of the proceeds are donated to Autism programs in Arizona. D-backs also donated 400 Autism-themed baseball caps. AAED Phoenix principal Shawn Davis, regional staff, and their pet therapy dogs helped spread awareness.
“I am incredibly proud of Tatum’s courage and self-motivation,” said AAED assistant director Katie Nieder. “She is a shining example that children with autism can.”
Tatum’s big pitch proved that individuals with autism can do anything they set their minds to do.