Tuesday, October 16th, 2018


Thirteen years ago, I had a Grandfather and his grandsons in the shop office while they were picking up their vehicle. The grandchildren were aged 3 to 5 years old, and they were little boys. Kids are kids, and I am a big proponent of family and enjoy watching kids have fun. As they became a little rowdier, their grandfather told them to calm down and then apologized to me for their behavior. Frankly, being from a large family of mostly boys, and a father of 4 boys, I didn’t see them as doing anything wrong. The grandfather then looked at me and said, please forgive them my younger grandson is autistic. Well, it was such a shock, he might as well have told me that the boy was green, because I didn’t even know what that meant. Shortly after that, I had another client come in and pick up his car. Let’s call him Sam. Sam had been a client for some years and was very set in his ways. He had some unusual characteristics, and I just put that up to him being Sam. I was also friends with Sam’s sister, and during a conversation with her, she told me a pretty funny story about one of Sam’s exploits and then said: “of course that happened because of his Autism.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. There was a child and a grown man that both suffered from the same syndrome? Was it the same?

Both of these families have become as close to me as a family, and we have had many talks about Autism. I did a lot of research and learned so much about how severe the syndrome is to diagnose and treat, and many different forms it takes. I recently just found out that shortly after the incident with the young boys that, he called to his grandfather and called him his name for grandpa and then didn’t speak another word for two years. Today he is in high school, loves football, is an excellent student and has a career plan all set out. He towers over me and smiles a queer little smile when we talk.

The fact of the matter is when people hear the word Autism. Usually, the first thought that comes to mind is Dustin Hoffman, who portrayed a savant in the movie “Rainman.” Another newer movie that portrays an Autistic genius is “The Accountant,” starring Ben Affleck, which is a more action-based “shoot-em-up” type of film.

Autism became very important to me, I did a lot of research and met so many people that I have known forever that had Autism in their lives. The fact of the matter is that the odds of a mother bearing a son with some form of autism have increased to 1 in 57. This is 2018, odds like this are unheard of, yet they do exist.
I’m a very private person so this story may seem vague, but it is only to protect these family’s privacies. I’m also a person that needs to take a stand in certain instances, Cancer being one and Autism being a close second, amongst others.

This was the beginning of our Free Brakes Program, “Putting the Brakes on Autism.” It’s a straightforward program, but unfortunately, people get hung up with the word FREE and spend more time “looking for the catch” than understanding its simplicity.

Thanks to my sponsors and vendors over the years, our local NAPA stores, being my biggest supporter, (thank you Ernie and Henry) and sponsor at this time, we can donate to you the customer, a set of NAPA high-quality pads or shoes for FREE. The brake job is all of the same; there are no overselling or gimmicks, if you need brakes, then it is the same as usual EXCEPT that you do not have to pay for the brake pads or shoes. That’s a savings to you of $73.00 to $100.00 plus. Plus, you’ll receive a nifty bright yellow shirt that proclaims that you participated in this program.

At the end of the month, we tally up all of the brake work that we performed for the month and Gregg’s Automotive writes a check to Autism Awareness Foundation of Charlotte County for 10% of that number. My goal this year is to write at LEAST a $2000.00 check. This money stays in Charlotte County and goes directly to the classrooms that need supplies, build outs, etc. It doesn’t get co-mingled with the Board of Education etc. What other charity can boast that!

Just in case you know a family or individual that has Autism in it they’re in good company. Some other Autistic individuals were Thomas Jefferson, Hans Christian Anderson, Amadeus Mozart, Michelangelo, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein.

Help me, help this foundation.

Thank you,
Gregg Marrapodi