Doug Flutie is a local sports legend, best known for his Hail Mary pass at Boston College and for his years spent as a quarterback in the NFL. However, the Natick, Massachusetts, native says he believes his greater legacy will be his work helping families affected by autism.
"This will be something that will be 50 years of my life instead of just the 20 year window of playing sports," Flutie said. "I think when it's all said and done, this will be the bigger part of my life."
His son, Doug Flutie Jr., is now 25, but when he was under the age of 3, he was diagnosed with autism. Shortly after, the Flutie family started the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation. Since then, they've helped countless families get access to care, technology and special camps. Their goal is to help people with autism and their families live life to the fullest.
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A member of one of those families is Sandra Leone, a Natick mom whose daughter Nina has autism, among other medical complexities.
"The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation has helped us every time Nina's gotten out of the hospital after weeks or months — they've always been the first people on our doorstep, guiding us, helping us financially, emotionally, physically, sending people to our home to help."
It's support the Flutie family knows people need. Doug says while his son Doug Jr. is "the happiest kid in the world," he also pointed out that "He's very low-functioning as far as autism is concerned. He doesn't have speech. He's non-verbal."
However, he added, Doug Jr. "Loves getting into the water and playing. Our life kind of revolves around what we're doing with Dougie that day and what his school hours are. It can be restrictive, but it's our life and has been for a long time now. We love every minute of it."
Flutie will be back in his hometown of Natick on Sunday, Oct. 1 for the Flutie 5k. For more information on how to help their fundraising efforts, go to www.flutiefoundation.org.