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East County Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009 8 years ago

Network supporters blaze trail for families with disabilities

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MANATEE COUNTY — For Panther Ridge mother Judy Kaspar, finding time to be with her two oldest children — or even making time for herself — can be difficult.

Her youngest child, Jim, has a severe case of autism that requires nearly every moment of her attention.
Although he is 12 years old, he just started speaking about one-and-one-half years ago. Activities such as football games are overwhelming.

“A typical 12-year-old you could leave alone for 15 minutes,” Kaspar said. “(Jim) can’t call 911. He had no way to communicate. If he got separated from an adult, up until recently, they wouldn’t have been able to tell (what he needed).”

That’s one reason respite care has been so valuable to Kaspar and her family. The service provides trained workers to watch children with special needs so parents can get a full night’s sleep, have a date night or spend uninterrupted time with their other children, among other things.

With a son and daughter in the Lakewood Ranch marching band, Kaspar said the respite services provided by Family Network on Disabilities of Manatee/Sarasota has been invaluable, allowing her and her husband to watch their other children’s band performances.

“Every child needs to have a few minutes to themselves with their parents,” Kaspar said.

Family Network on Disabilities hopes to raise funds to help families such as the Kaspars during an upcoming fundraiser. The Third Annual Lake Manatee Trail Blaze 5K/10K Run will be held at 8 a.m., Oct. 10, at Lake Manatee State Park. Registration starts at 7 a.m. The event costs $25 for adults and $15 for children under 12 on race day.

The race will wind through Lake Manatee State Park, taking runners on a partially paved, partially trail course, coordinator Michelle Adams said.

Bluegrass group Myakka The Band will provide musical entertainment throughout the event, and racers also will be awarded prizes and giveaways.

“This race is one of our largest fundraisers that we hold,” Adams said.

Mary Smith, executive director of the Family Network on Disabilities, said the event is extra important this year because the organization has experienced funding cuts from all of its funding sources.

“The proceeds (from the race) are going to go to make sure we continue to do the respite program and the other programs we do,” Smith said.

To register online, visit or

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

Third Annual Lake Manatee Trail Blaze 5K/10K
WHEN: Race starts at 8 a.m., Oct. 10
WHERE: Lake Manatee State Park, 20007 S.R. 64 E.
REGISTRATION: Race-day registration costs $25 for adults and $15 for children.
INFORMATION:, or or call Michelle Adams at 266-7326.

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