World Autism Awareness Day 2023 took place on April 2nd. On Monday April 3rd, Zumba with Christal (ZwithC) hosted a very special class with former Zumba for Kids dance student, Kalem Payment, who is on the autism spectrum.
“Autism isn’t scary, it’s what makes me a special boy. For me, my Autism gives me the power to remember very specific things like birthdays and events. I can tell you that I know over 85 of my friends and families’ birthdays by heart without cheating. I can also play very difficult music on my piano like Beethoven and Mozart without any music sheets in front of me,” Kalem told the class in a heartfelt opening speech.
“It’s important for me to say that Autism isn’t what I have, it’s who I am,” he added, “It does not make me less; it makes me unique. Being unique is what makes the world a better place and it is what I love about myself the most.”
To help raise money for Kalem’s foundation, Kalem’s Cause, a year-round fundraiser to help struggling families at Christmas, ZwithC put together a lucky numbers board. The numbers started from 1 to 100.
Within an hour of launching the lucky numbers board, the team had already sold 40 numbers. After selling out of the first board they decided – why not keep going? Christal Bowen’s spouse, Val Bowen, worked hard to rearrange the handmade lucky numbers board to include not just 100, but 200 numbers! They now have only 24 numbers left, nearly doubling their original fundraising goal.
“We’re just amping it up and continuing to keep that money coming in for autism awareness and honestly, I couldn’t be more happy,” said Bowen, “I am thrilled by the generosity and the energy of the people who are giving to this whether they come to Zumba or whether they’re just part of the community.”
The plan was to draw for the prize on Friday, April 7th, but due to the fundraiser’s success (and the recent ice storm), they extended the deadline to Friday, April 14th.
“Monday, I had the privilege of dancing with Kalem again and he remembered the routine from years ago, I couldn’t believe it,” Bowen shared, “Some people just make the world a better place and I’ll be honest with you that is exactly what happened! He lights up a room and has such a good vibe and good energy.”
While the partnership with Kalem’s Corner is new, every other year Christal and her cousin Rachel Tooley, who also has a son who is autistic, collaborate to fundraise and raise autism awareness.
In addition to the success of this fundraiser, Christal Bowen is currently nominated for Best Woman in Business by the Local Seeker.
“I’m just, honestly, I’m on cloud nine. I am so honoured and happy to be nominated. I think when you put goodness into the world it comes back to you. That’s kind of what’s going on right now. It just feels good all around.”