48 for Autism

Student travels across the country for a good cause


photo courtesy of Mike Straub

Gabe Paredes, Entertainment Editor

With his hair flowing in the wind, hand on the GPS, and a keen eye for the scenic views of America, freshman Adam Straub will be taking a summer vacation many would envy to partake in at his age. Along with his father, Mike Straub, Adam will embark on a journey across all 48 states of Continental America in a light blue Chevrolet Corvette. Not just for themselves, but for a good cause as well.

If trying to drive through all 48 states in a luxury car isn’t ambitious enough, Adam and Mike have decided to give a deeper meaning to this trip beyond just a bonding experience between a father and a son. They have taken the initiative to to make this trip a fundraiser for Autism Action Partnership, an organization that the Straub family has already greatly benefitted from since Adam is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism as well as ADHD.

“After frequent behavioral issues I went to his preschool to watch Adam and how he behaved,” Mike Straub said. “Although someone might’ve not noticed it while watching all the kids, when you focused on him, you noticed there were obvious differences and lack of interaction with other kids.”

Soon after these observations, Adam was taken into the Munroe Meyer Institute where he was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Ever since, Adam and his family have taken part in groups and organizations that help students with autism like Circle of Friends. The Circle of Friends in Millard is sponsored by Autism Action Partnership which is what prompted the Straubs to raise funds for that organization.

“We picked Autism Action Partnership for something local,” Adam’s mom Jolene Straub said. “We wanted something that Adam has directly benefited from.”

The original idea for this very ambitious trip stemmed out of Adam’s father’s tradition of annual adventurous family trips. Since 1992, Mike Straub has gone on annual venturesome trips with his two older brothers. These trips have overflowed into the father son outings he has now, the first one being a five week trip to Alaska where two out of those five weeks were done with Adam’s older brother Eric when he was just 9 years old.

Ever since, Mike has alternated one-on-one trips with his sons almost every year. With the Corvette, Adam has already gone to Canada, Ohio and California, along with other parts of the southwest and even the Corvette museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Once it was Adam’s turn to go on a special trip with his dad again, he wanted to go big or go home by reaching all 48 states in one summer.

“My dad has this poster with pictures of him in all 48 states,” Adam Straub said. “I thought, why don’t we just do that?”

Through his autism, Adam has difficulty finding the right words to say within a social interaction.

“The thought of putting out words that aren’t appropriate, it scares me,” Adam Straub said.

Despite Adam’s struggles, he’s decided to challenge himself by taking on this big fundraiser where he’s going to have to answer questions for strangers. Adam and his dad have even gone as far as going out to practice interviews with his dad’s phone camera.

Mike Straub got the jump started the fundraising campaign in February by getting in touch with Justin Dougherty, the executive director at AAP, who was on board with the idea.

“His response was ‘YES! I don’t know what I’m saying yes to, but Yes,’” Mike Straub said. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve worked with AAP’s network and my own personal network to build a list of corporate and private donors.”

My Place Hotels is generously contributing the proceeds of three nights of their hotel rooms to AAP and is also sharing on social media and will be blogging about the trip. Two Runza restaurants in Millard, the locations on 168th & Harrison along with 204th & Maple, have also agreed to donate 15% of their revenues on the day they leave on May 29th. Mike Straub’s workplace, TEAM Software, has also donated $1000 as well as letting him take a day or two of Volunteer Time Off for him to with sponsors and media outlets. Mike and Adam have come up with an initial goal of $48,000, a thousand dollars for every state they go through, but have different stages if they end up getting more donations.

“I want to stress that I don’t want or am looking for sponsors to reduce my trip expenses,” Mike Straub said. “I want sponsors who believe in the message that Adam and I have about autism, and that Autism Partnership can help.”

Along with lining up sponsors, Mike and Adam have setup a Facebook page, a GoFundMe page, and have taken photos and videos to share with media outlets. All donations form the GoFundMe going straight to AAP.

The fundraiser aside, Adam and Mike Straub are looking forward to hitting the few curvy roads along the way such as Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina and Highway 12 over Lolo Pass in Indiana and Montana. They’re also going to try to stop in Philadelphia and Boston for a couple quick pictures at the Rocky Steps and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“There is a slight chance of hooking up with the Philadelphia Eagles,” Mike Straub said. “One of their philanthropies is autism. But either way, we need to keep our butts in the seat to make it to that night’s hotel.”  

Mike will be rolling into the school parking lot on May 29th at 1:30 pm to pick up Adam for his grand trip. An adventure of a lifetime not just for themselves, but for the communities they’re part of. Whether it’s Millard West, Nebraska or people with autism across America, this is a journey for everyone.