Motorcycle club raises $6,700 in first autism awareness run for member with autistic son
The clinic has one of the only multidisciplinary teams designated for autism treatment in the state, including social workers, a pediatric neurologist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a physical therapist and a pediatrician.
GRAND FORKS — Greyson, just 3 years old, started showing signs very early in his life of not being quite the same as other children his age.
His mother and father, Deshawn Lawrence and Joe Jetty, had their suspicions. Between flapping his arms, walking on his tip toes and lining up his toys by size and color, Jetty said he wasn’t incredibly surprised to get the news.
In December 2021, Jetty took his son Greyson to Altru’s Autism Diagnostic Center at the Altru Performance Center where he was diagnosed with autism.
The clinic has one of the only multidisciplinary teams designated for autism treatment in the state, including social workers, a pediatric neurologist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a physical therapist and a pediatrician. The service was started in 2012 and was originally funded through grants. Now, Jetty’s motorcycle club has made a pact to hold a ride each year to raise money for the facility that diagnosed Greyson and allowed him to make progress in his communication skills without any cost to his family.
“Over the years, it became so successful and the community identified such a need for it that we started getting donations after the grant ran out,” Paige Thompson, supervisor for outpatient therapy services at the clinic, said.
The clinic now operates at no cost to patients through insurance or out of pocket fees and sees an average of 75 patients each year. The majority come from the Grand Forks region, but they come from all over North Dakota.
“The majority come from this region, but we have had individuals travel as far in west North Dakota as Williston, and we have some from Minnesota that actually travel here just based on our team approach that we have for it,” Thompson said.
Jetty said he took the news fairly well, but it was at least somewhat because the level of care Greyson received stood out to him.
“There (were) multiple doctors that (had) seen him, helped diagnose him (and) they put us into contact with other outside resources that could potentially better our son's life,” Jetty said. “It’s probably the same for every child that has autism.”
Greyson undergoes occupational therapy and speech therapy twice a week. Jetty said Greyson’s speech is coming around and has hit a milestone just in the past couple of months. He is now repeating everything he hears from his parents.
“He’s super smart, but he’s semi-verbal,” Jetty said. “He’s starting to talk more as time progresses. But he’s a normal 3-year-old, he just doesn’t speak (well).”
Jetty is sergeant-at-arms for the Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club and has been involved with them since he became a probate member in 2012. The club is based in towns across the United States, and Jetty belongs to the Devils Lake location where he lives, which has 19 members. He said the club is made up primarily of firefighters and paramedics.
“I’ve rode motorcycles my whole life,” Jetty said. “I had some really good friends, and they wanted me to start riding with them around 2012.”
After Greyson was diagnosed with autism, Jetty was told by someone at the clinic it was completely funded by donations. A light bulb immediately turned on in his head.
“My guys, we’re always looking for ideas to kind of help out the community and anybody that needs help, essentially,” Jetty said.
The Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club organized the first of what will become an annual Autism Awareness two-part motorcycle run. The first part was June 5, and the second part was July 9, which brought in just over 70 bikes. The run consisted of five stops over 250 miles. Through the run, the club raised just over $6,700 for Altru’s Autism Diagnostic Center.
“I mean, $6,700 for a facility like this doesn't seem like much, but it's something,” Jetty said. “You can't put a price on peace of mind, so to speak. I know I speak for all of us (that) it makes us feel good that we're helping anybody and everybody that comes through these doors.”