Autistic teen organizes 20K Bike Rally

Fifteen-year old Grant Zollinger from Katy has organized a hugely successful bike rally for the residents of the Brookwood Community, in spite of his own daily struggles with autism. A freshman at Tompkins High School, Grant had to work harder than most of his peers on his Eagle Scout project. He is proof that a big heart and a lot of determination can achieve great things.

Thanks to Grant’s efforts, over 50 citizens of Brookwood, each with their own physical and mental disabilities, were able to feel the accomplishment of cycling for 20K (over 12 miles), cheered on by friends and volunteers.

Grant struggles with skills that many of us take for granted, such as being able to communicate and knowing how to act in social situations. In spite of this he

met with Greg Glauser from the Brookwood Community and then planned every detail of the project from the schedule, to thinking through all of the logistics for the rally. Grant soon realized that the project would require at least 50-70 extra volunteers so that every cyclist would have a “buddy” – someone to stay with them and cycle with them throughout the race. He also needed a crowd of cheerleaders and extra volunteers to man first aid, refreshment and bike repair stations. Grant called on his Mormon church community which quickly offered its support, taking their assignments from Grant.

Grant’s father, Corey Zollinger, acted as project coach. He admits that as a parent of a child with special needs, it can be easy to underestimate his capabilities. Says Corey: “As parent and project coach, I consciously stepped back as much as I could and enabled Grant to acknowledge and solve the problems. I saw him take initiative, make decisions and face his biggest challenge of communicating and delegating to others. It was great to watch, even when I saw him struggle with it.”

The Brookwood Community provides an educational environment that creates meaningful jobs and builds a sense of belonging and respect for adults with disabilities.  Fitness is an important part of their program.  The Citizens train all year to take part in the 20K Bike Rally, a big event which requires a great deal of community support. Says Brookwood’s Greg Glauser: “Grant made our Citizens feel like famous bike riders, a lasting image, and helped change the way the world thinks about adults with disabilities. Grant understands very much about having challenges but he is not defined by them.”

The crowd of cheerleaders, buddy cyclists and first-aiders came from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are around 4,000 Church members in the Katy area. Often noted for their yellow “Helping Hands” shirts around the community, Church members actively seek for ways to follow Jesus Christ by serving those around them.