A BOY with autism will walk nearly 20 kilometres to raise money for an autism resource centre in Bendigo.
Mitchell Bourke, 12, who has autism and schizotypal disorder, came up with the idea after vital funding for the centre fell through at the last minute.
He will walk from Epsom to Kangaroo Flat.
Mitchell hopes to raise $25,000, more than double the amount of funding they had expected to receive, by completing the feat with his sister Karra Bourke on March 16, along with an online auction.
He said the resource centre was very important and is calling on the local community to sponsor him or to donate prizes.
“I overheard my mum speaking to my sister about our family friend Beck, who was supposed to get a $10,000 cheque, so I woke up on Monday and I just thought of this,” Mitchell said.
“Me and my mum and some other autism people have wanted to build a resource centre so kids can go and learn about computers and things.
“The centre is really important.
“It is just to help other families.
“Before I was very violent and I wasn’t very happy and thought of suicide, I had been bullied by kids and teachers.
“Now I am at Girton and it is really good.”
The campaign has stirred a lot of community support.
In just two days Mitch’s Autie Walk has received 245 likes on Facebook and 5023 followers on Twitter.
Fosterville Mine, where Mitchell’s father works, has donated $2000, and K Mart has donated 100 t-shirts with Arvee Screenprinting also on board.
“I am a bit surprised,” said Mitchell.
“Lots of people have already joined and I am going to be practicing next week.
“I’m just going to walk a few kilometres each day.
“I usually do 10-kilometre bike rides.”
His mother Mychelle Bourke said she was very proud of what Mitchell was doing.
“He blows me away every day,” she said.
“If people could honestly understand how hard it is for him and what he has achieved, it is incredible.
“He has been going flat out.
“It has just gone ballistic.
“To think he was this close to not being here.
“The system has a major gap, one in 29 are diagnosed with autism in Victoria, there is only a limited amount of funding, the waiting lists are phenomenal.
“Parents don’t know where to turn or what to do.
“They don't have any understanding.
“You think I’ll just buy him what he wants and let’s fix it, but it doesn’t work that way.
“The parent and child all need to learn that there are boundaries that need to be put in place.
“This is where the resource centre comes in.
“I am 100 per cent behind the resource centre.
“I know what it likes to get shafted from one spot to another, everyone just says ‘we can’t help you try this place’.
“I was blown away that support is not here in Bendigo.
“It is sad to see.
“These kids can do things if you put them on the right track.
“In five or six years Mitchell could have be on a disability pension for the rest of his life whereas with the path we have put him on, I hope he can have a job and support himself and one day maybe meet somebody. Are these too high expectations? I don’t think so.”
Family-friend and autism advocate Beck Kelly who has been campaigning for the resource centre, said she had been blindsided by what Mitchell was doing.
“That kid is just amazing,” she said.
“I was speechless when he told me and I’m rarely lost for words.
“If he can achieve even half the amount of what he wants to raise we can sign the lease on the building and get things started.
“We have a huge autism community here and lots of people have been pushing for this.
“We want to provide a space for everybody, not just the kids, but the teens and the adults on the spectrum.
“It will also be a place for people who want to learn more about autism to come and get the correct information.
“It will be an amazing space, a second home for some people.
“This young man is helping to change the lives of a lot of people.
“He has single-handedly saved this centre.”
This young man is helping to change the lives of a lot of people
For more information visit the Mitch’s Autie Walk Facebook page or call Mychelle Bourke on 0428006767.