DJ’s Southern Mud Sling’n Adventure
After putting on Muddin’ for the Military the last 2 years we decided to branch out and do something to bring more awareness to Autism and ATV Therapy. I started following DJ’s ATV Adventures in the summer of 2012 after seeing one of my friends on Facebook like a picture of DJ on his Can Am XMR. As I started reading more about DJ I learned that he was severely autistic but had a love for off-roading that was out of this world. I found it amazing to hear how being outdoors and on a quad could be a form of therapy for this young man. The more I thought about it the more it made sense to me. When life is getting stressful I always say, “I need mud therapy” and the funny thing is after a ride I come back feeling refreshed. There is truth for some of us that being outdoors, on an ATV and playing in the mud is therapeutic but for DJ it truly is his documented form of therapy.
I spoke with DJ’s dad, Darin, a year prior to the start of H.O.P.E Outdoor Adventures and shared with him my heart to have he and DJ come down south to ride with us. They, being from Ohio, are a custom to a different style of riding than we are so we thought it would be an adventure of a lifetime for DJ to experience our definition of “MUDDIN”. Once H.O.P.E. Outdoor Adventures was legally formed and recognized we reached out to Darin to let him know that DJ’s Southern Mud Sling’n Adventure would be our first priority.
In February 2014 H.O.P.E. Outdoor Adventures teamed up with High Lifter Off-Road Park in Shreveport, Louisiana to host Muddin’ for Autism. This event helped us raise over $3000.00 to pay for DJ’s Southern Mud Sling’n Adventure. Not only did we have many donations from individuals but we also had some help from our friends at Gator Waders, Can Am Monsters and Xtreme LED Whips & Accessories.
With April being National Autism Awareness Month, both DJ and Darin’s birthday month and the VIP ride for the most amazing park in the United States, Muddy Bottoms ATV & Recreation Park, we knew it would be the perfect combination for an Adventure of a lifetime. DJ arrived at Muddy Bottoms on Thursday April 24th and immediately I fell in love with him and his family. It didn’t take him long to warm up to me and by the end of the weekend he was singing to me, told me he loved me and let me kiss his forehead and give him a hug. These may seem like very simple things but for someone with Autism these are huge steps of progress especially when meeting new people in a new place. One thing Darin said to me about DJ that really helped me to understand him better was that he could understand everything I was saying but he didn’t have the ability to communicate verbally his feelings back to me. DJ may not have been able to verbally communicate with me but his smiles, his laugh, his eye contact and body language showed me what he was feeling and thinking. He would light up when we went through the mud, he loved the song Laffy Taffy, he would give a high five if you asked and he was mesmerized by all the LED whips on the bikes at night. He got to see his first live concert and loved the music of Cody Cooke and the Bayou Outlaws. Another first was Candy, DJ’s mom, getting to ride with them and see his ATV Therapy in action. DJ and Darin got to meet some of their favorite professional mud racers, Shane Dowden, Dustin Jones, Steve Hittle and Brian Haughton. This Adventure couldn’t have gone any smoother or been any better.
We are so thankful and blessed by the generosity of the ATV Community and all the people and businesses that made this possible for DJ and his family. If you would like to keep up with DJ he is on Facebook under DJ’s ATV Adventures