What Makes Ronnie Roll: April, Athens And Autism

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Mayor Ronnie zipped into the office wearing his autism tie and sporting his autism pin. Nationally April is Autism Awareness month, and in our area two of the people who are the most involved in that effort all year long are Todd Tomerlin and Stacey Givens. Both are parents of autistic kids. Todd was our neighbor in 2007 when I first got home from Iraq, and the person who first taught me about autism. Autism is the third most common developmental disability, and affects approximately 30,000 citizens in Alabama. Stacey has been instrumental in getting funding for sensory rooms to be placed in schools so kids on the spectrum have a place to go to decompress when they are experiencing sensory overload. City Hall had issued a proclamation regarding April being Autism Awareness month that says in part:

Whereas, Autism is a complex disability that require[s] increased research to one day find a cure and prevention; and great recognition and understanding to ensure that individuals with autism living in our community, our state, and throughout the United States, are accurately diagnosed and appropriately treated throughout their lives. Now, therefore, I William R. Marks, Mayor of the City of Athens, Alabama, do hereby proclaim the month of April 2024 as Autism Awareness Month. In the City of Athens, Alabama and urge all citizens to educate themselves on this disability and to support those organizations striving to help those afflicted with the disorder and to find a cure.

“We are desperate to want better for our families,” said Mayor Ronnie, and we talked about several examples of people who have gone to extraordinary lengths to do so. “It is one of the things that makes Athens so special; the way we care for those with special needs,” he said. I am not sure if his tie and pin had engendered curiosity on the part of his grandson Quinton at the breakfast table on this Monday morning, but he mentioned that the mayor and Quinton had quite a discussion on the subject.

Seeing as it was the day after Resurrection Sunday and the day before the first wild storm of April, it only seemed fitting to take a moment to talk about spring, now that it is officially here. “The dogwoods, the redbuds — spring just brings life,” the mayor said.

Of course, every year we have to dedicate at least a portion of a Ronnie to March Madness, and this year is no exception. As of this writing, the Alabama men’s team was still a contender, SEC men’s and women’s teams were doing well, and the ever-formidable U Conn was more than in the running. It had been a great contest so far, and more than likely will result in a satisfying nail-biting night come Sunday for the women and Monday for the men.

There was only one thing left to do, and that was to pray, so we did. The storm was coming, and as always, we asked that God would protect Athens in April. And then, it was time for Ronnie to roll.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner