By Manny LopezAddie Merrill hopes to raise more than $10,000 to benefit the Autism Society of America San Diego Chapter while also helping people get fit.
Merrill is the founder of Merrill’s Personal Training Studio, which is currently hosting its sixth annual Remodel Your Body Challenge.
Money raised through this event will go to fund special programs for families in San Diego living with autism.
Merrill said she got involved with Autism in 2007 when her first daughter was about 18-months-old. She noticed her daughter was developmentally delayed and scheduled an appointment to see a pediatrician.
“At that point she was diagnosed with autism, and I didn’t know anything about it,” Merrill said.
She and her husband, Tyler, tried to find all of the resources available.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that impacts the normal development of the brain.
Currently there is no cure for autism, and most families living with autism are forced to find information and resources on their own.
Merrill said, “There are so many kids with this disease. I can’t raise enough money on my own so I thought to use my business to do it.”
Both Merrills have been very active in raising funds for numerous causes over the years. Tyler once pushed a 215-pound wheelchair-bound man with Multiple Sclerosis up Torrey Pines Hill on behalf of the MS Society.
“We did some research and came across the ASA,” Tyler Merrill said, “We felt they were doing some good work in the community and so we wanted to do what we could to help.”
John Van Brabant, President of the ASASD said, “Our charter is to help families by directing them to resources and to provide families with opportunities. We seek to educate the community about autism and how children and young adults can become contributing members of the community.”
Begun in 1966, the ASASD is one of the oldest chapters in the country with over 500 members in San Diego. The organization has 24 board members who are all volunteers. Van Brabant said, “We only have one paid employee who works part-time as an administrative assistant.” Himself a parent of a child with autism, Van Brabant said, “I have an emotional stake in all of this.”
Tyler Merrill said he and Addie originally started the RYB Challenge “as a way to get people motivated to improve their health and improve their physique after the New Year’s hype was over.”
The RYB Challenge requires participants to first receive a body fat assessment. They then have eight weeks to go home and change their bodies. The person who can change or modify their body composition the most relative to where they started is the winner. The formula puts everyone on an even paying field. Tyler Merrill said, “The third year of this contest, the person that won was 70 years old.” Last year’s group of competitors lost more than 200 pounds of total body fat with the winner losing more that four percent which was equal to 12 pounds of pure body fat. He did so by playing ping pong for 2 hours per night. The top three contestants will receive trophies with the winner receiving a voucher for twelve 25-minute personal training sessions at Merrill’s Studio.
This year for an additional contribution of $50, participants will receive seven boot camp workouts, which were added to keep participants motivated and to provide an activity they can look forward to once per week.
The event has attracted the attention of sponsors and has continued to grow steadily each year. So far, this year’s event has attracted 120 participants who have donated more than $8,500 for the cause.
Merrill said, “Having an autistic child can be a challenge for any family, but, with early intervention, there are many things that can be done to improve quality of life.”
Merrill advises anyone who suspects their child may be autistic to get as many opinions from doctors as possible. She said, “Do as much research as possible. Like any other disease the sooner it can be diagnosed, the sooner you can start to take action on it.”