Tiger Tales: For My Brother
March 22, 2014
Growing up, senior softball player Libby Goranson has always had a special bond with her younger brother.
"We have always been really close," Libby said. "Our relationship is different than anyone else's. We always know what is going on with each other all the time."
This relationship is so different and important to Libby because her brother, Ryan who is just 19 months younger, was diagnosed with autism. Every day 130 children are diagnosed with neural development disorder that is characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior.
"He went to a preschool at church and the director could tell he was not socially involved with the other students there," said Libby's father, Roger Goranson. "We actually had someone from the state come in and test Ryan, and we knew from that point on that he did have autism."
Like many disorders we see in society, autism does not have a cause or a cure. The symbol for autism, a puzzle piece, is a perfect representation of the how it fits into individual lives and society.
"The saying goes, `if you met one person with autism, then you've met one person with autism,'" Roger said. "We are so different as individuals, but when the puzzle piece finds it's proper spot in the puzzle, then it can flourish. I think that is really what it means for us."
The puzzle piece and autism meant so much to Libby that she got a tattoo of the it on the back of her neck.
"For my own purpose, I got it as a remembrance thing for all that happened in my childhood just to be able to say that I made it this far and these are the things that helped me get there along the way," Libby explains.
Libby and Ryan alike have always participated in sports from young ages.
"Libby has been playing softball since about seven or eight years old and Ryan has participated in soccer, swimming, and recently bowling in the Special Olympics, since about eight years old" Roger said.
This passion that Libby had for softball and her relationship with her brother has sparked a deep interest in raising awareness for autism through sport.
Ryan attends each of Libby's home softball games, and the team along with the fans love him.
"Ryan has been a good sport, he has made a lot of friends," Roger said. "There have been times that we have actually lost track of him at tournaments but he always has been safe; we just contribute it to people taking good care of Ryan and being drawn to him when they meet him."
The team also loves Ryan.
"At the games they will come in the dugout and say, `Libby, Ryan said this to me, he is so funny," Libby said. "It is just a really good thing to see something that is a part of me to make such an impact in such a positive way."
It was this relationship that sparked Libby to take action with her softball team and the University of Memphis to promote autism awareness for Ryan and others who know this disorder during a softball game this spring.
"Libby has taken it upon herself to get the Autism Awareness game started with the University of Memphis and the local groups that are helping," Roger said. "We are really appreciative of that."
The game will take place March 26th, at the Tigers Softball Complex against Lipscomb at 5 p.m.
"I just saw this as a great opportunity," Libby said. "I actually came up with the idea a few years ago but I felt like since this is my last year I really wanted to do something that was going to impact people other than just the people at this university." Another symbol from the Autism Speaks organization that promotes awareness for the disorder is a promotion called "Light Up Blue Day."
"They have cities around the world joining in," Libby said. "Different cities will light up some of their biggest buildings in blue at nightfall just to raise awareness. That is kind of where we got the idea to have glow sticks in blue at the game."
This game "Glow It Up Blue" is a perfect example and reminder of how autism affects not just one person but a whole family, a community.
Graduating this August, Libby has a positive outlook and a grateful heart for her time here at the University of Memphis.
"It is definitely bittersweet, I think it is going to be a sad moment but I am also going to be able to start a new chapter in my life," Libby said. "I am glad I chose to come here because the staff has gotten to know the players and have really welcomed me and my brother and our situation; it really feels like home to me."
With her love for her brother and for the University of Memphis, this game is a way for Libby to leave a mark in honor of autism.
After graduation, Libby plans to stay involved with autism awareness through volunteerism.
"I need to find a place that I can feel like I've become attached and thrive there," Libby said. "I really want to volunteer and reach out and be able to touch some people's lives just a little bit."
The "Glow It Up Blue" game will take place Wednesday, March 26th at 5:00 p.m. at the Tigers Softball Complex against Lipscomb. Admission is free to the game and will benefit the Autism Society of the Mid-South; the first 150 fans will receive free glow sticks for the fourth inning ceremony. Fans can also make a donation toward the Autism Society of the Mid-South at the game.
Come out to support the Goranson family, the Autism Society, and your Memphis Tigers this Wednesday.
Video by: Brad Pope
Web Story by: Ashley Mitchell