By Erica, Contributor, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Rocket Power is an initiative pioneered by Rocket Sports Media designed to mobilize hockey fans to support charitable organizations and to get involved in their communities. We are proud to help raise awareness with a series of continuing features intended to spotlight members of the hockey community who are making a difference.

MONTREAL, QC. — Wendy Ferris Groulx has been instrumental in involving the Montreal Canadiens with fundraisers for autism spectrum disorders. She and her husband, Canadiens goaltending coach Pierre Groulx, are parents to twin boys. One of the twins, Leo, was diagnosed with autism just over a year ago. Here, she discusses her, and the Canadiens’, involvement with Autism Speaks, to raise both funds and public awareness for the disorder.

How did you get involved with Autism Speaks?

This happened through the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation. Our of our twin boys, Leo, was diagnosed with autism a little more than a year ago, a couple of months before his 3rd birthday. During the lockout, my husband spoke with Geneviève Paquette, the executive director of the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation and suggested that the Foundation do something to promote autism awareness, if possible. She then brought this all together, with Pierre and I creating Team Canadiens-Pierre Groulx for Walk Now for Autism Speaks, and both Autism Speaks and the social-services group CRDI-Montérégie coming together to promote autism awareness at the April 1 game at the Bell Centre.

What was that night like?

It was a great night at the Bell Centre. It was emotional for me, reflecting on Leo first being diagnosed and how far he has come in the past 15 months. The coaches, both for the Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes, wore the Autism Speaks blue puzzle piece lapel pins to support Autism Awareness Night. Some autistic children were invited to the game and got to meet Carey Price afterwards. It felt great to have so much support for the cause. We also launched an auction that day, selling autographed NHL memorabilia that Pierre had collected from players around the league. The auction, which includes signed jerseys from Carey Price and Craig Anderson, and sticks signed by Claude Giroux and Steven Stamkos, just to name a few items, will run until April 27 with all proceeds being donated to Autism Speaks Canada, on behalf of Team Canadiens – Pierre Groulx.

Video Presentation from Autism Awareness Night at the Bell Centre, April 1, 2013

Tell us about Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks is holding its 3rd annual walk in Montreal on May 26, 2013. The three kilometre walk starts at 10 am. at Stade Uniprix. There will be a lot of activities for kids and fun for the whole family, including slides, bouncy houses, face painting and music. The fundraising we are doing leading up the walk will go to Autism Speaks Canada, with the money being used to support autism research and family services programs, as well as to raise awareness about a disorder that is now being diagnosed in one out of every 88 children.

walknowIs this your first time taking part in this event?

Yes. Last year at this time, we were still trying to figure out how to get the help that Leo needed and didn’t know about Walk Now for Autism Speaks. It is difficult to get that kind of diagnosis for your child. Now, a year later, we’re working with two different therapists, and Leo is making such great progress. We couldn’t be more proud of him. it was natural for us to look for ways to help raise autism awareness and fundraise for the walk. We are pleased to be part of the event this year.

Your sons will be walking with you. Have you been doing anything special to get them ready for the walk?

Actually, I haven’t told them about it yet. They just turned four in March and they will have a hard time waiting the month and a half until the event if I tell them about it right now! They will want to go immediately. Leo always handles situations better when we prepare him for them in advance. So I will probably tell him about the walk about a week before, maybe show him some pictures on the computer of people doing a fundraising walk and tell him about the bouncy castles and face painting. Both the boys will be excited, that is for sure. Both my husband’s parents and my parents will be travelling to Montreal to do the walk with us and we have had friends and neighbours tell us they want to participate as well. The support we have felt, both for our fundraising for Walk Now for Autism Speaks and, specifically for our son Leo, has been overwhelming.

Do you have a fundraising goal?

We have set our fundraising goal at $5,000 and I think we’re about halfway there. While the money is important and we really want to raise as much as possible, Pierre and I think that drawing awareness to this disorder is equally as important. If any parent out there has any concerns about their child related to autism, we encourage you to have your child tested. Early intervention really is key. While it is difficult to face this type of diagnosis and news, the earlier you can come to terms with it, the earlier you can start to find the right intervention and therapy for your child.

What was it like for you after Leo was diagnosed?

A year ago at this time, Leo was nowhere near being potty trained. Today, he is completely potty trained thanks to social stories created for him by his therapist Sarah-Ève Tremblay from the CRDI-Montérégie. We used to be scared to take Leo to a park due to his often unpredictable behaviour with other children. Today, we can take Leo to a park and not only watch him play well with others, but hear him introduce himself and say hi to other children. He communicates so much more than he used to and we are so full of hope and excitement for Leo’s future.

If we can help another parent get on the right track with their child, then we’ll be happy. We are so pleased to be in a position where we can bring some awareness to this disorder, and raise some money as well.


For more information on Walk Now for Autism Speaks, click here.
To support Team Canadiens – Pierre Groulx with a donation, visit their donation page.
Autographed NHL jerseys, sticks, and gloves are up for auction, benefitting Team Canadiens – Pierre Groulx, at NHL Auctions.
Wendy discusses the first year after Leo’s diagnosis on her personal blog.