After the birth of her son in 2003, Wendi Fauria filled photo albums with dozens of pictures of his smiling face.
At eight months, she noticed that bright smile had started to change into a blank stare.
Dave Fauria, 11, was diagnosed with autism seven months later.
“My heart dropped. I was thinking it was a dream and it wasn’t real. I had no idea what autism was,” Wendi said. “He would stare off into space just looking blankly. He didn’t speak his first word until he was 3.”
Dave started doing behavior therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and auditory integration training right away.
Wendi even began making all Dave’s food at home since he could no longer eat beef, dairy, gluten and many fruits.
“He eats protein, veggies and a couple fruits,” she said. “He’s the healthiest child ever. He’s never even had a cavity.”
All Dave’s therapies cost the family $60,000-100,000 a year, which they paid out of their own pocket.
During this time, the Fauria’s met other families struggling to afford autism treatments.
In 2004, Garritt and Wendi started the nonprofit Families for Effective Autism Treatment to help other families pay for treatments.
“Having a child with autism is a drain on finances and an emotional drain,” Wendi said. “They say, it takes a village to raise a typical child, but it takes a county to help raise our special babies.”
After years of selling off stock, mortgaging their house and borrowing money from families, the Fauria’s stepped down from FEAT in order to get financial help from the organization themselves.
In 2012, they decided to try stem cell treatments, where Dave’s own live stem cells from the fatty tissue and bone marrow are reinjected back into his blood stream..
“Stem cells are like homing pigeons. When there’s something wrong with our body it sends out distress signals,” Wendi explained. “The stem cells find what part of the body is sending out the biggest signal and it fixes it.”
After the first treatment in the Dominican Republic, Wendi noticed a change in her son.
He was much calmer and the stomach problems he had been having greatly improved.
The first treatment the family paid for themselves, the second one a year later FEAT helped cover some of the cost.
Dave has continued to improve.
“He became more aware of the people around him, and now it’s so much different,” Wendi said. “There’s a huge communication improvement. Now we can take him almost anywhere. We still have a lot of work to do, but things are much better now than when he was first diagnosed.”
To continue to fund autism treatments for others, FEAT is having its annual 5K walk/10K run fundraiser April 26 at Heritage Park.
Registration is 9 a.m. for the 10K, and 9:30 a.m. for the 5K.
There will be vendor booths set up at the park, entertainment by Anthony Joseph and free lunch by Russells Catering for all participants.
FEAT has helped approximately 50 families in the last decade all over Northern Nevada, and every penny raised from the walk contributes to the cause.
“We really need people to come out and support. There are families who desperately need help now,” Wendi said. “If other families can’t get help from FEAT they’re going to stall in their progress. Every penny will directly help a child.”
Cost for the walk/run is $35 for the 5K and $55 for the 10K.
To register or to donate, visit www.featcv.org.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.