OLD TOWN, Maine — Connor Archer was barely through the front door of his home after a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C., to receive a national award for volunteerism before he was on to his next project.
The Old Town High School senior and distance runner on the Coyotes’ cross-country and track teams is putting the final touches on his third annual Courageous Steps walk-run fundraiser, scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at Old Town High School’s Victory Field.
Activities will include a 1-mile walk at 12:30 p.m. followed by a 1-mile run at approximately 1:15, as well as a free-throw shooting contest and the Darling’s Ice Cream for a Cause truck.
Registration begins at 11 a.m. with the entry fee $6 for children 10 and younger, $12 for other individuals and $25 for a family.
“I’m focusing on all aspects of it to make this the best year yet,” said Archer, whose event raised $6,300 last year.
All proceeds will benefit local programs that help children facing challenges. Those include scholarships and donations to various causes — this year including local unified high school basketball programs that mix players with developmental disabilities with non-varsity partners without developmental disabilities on teams that ultimately compete for regional and state championships.
“I’d like to make some small donations to all the unified basketball programs in the Bangor area this year,” Archer said. “I think that’s a very important program. It allows children with challenges to be able to interact with those who don’t have quite those challenges and learn the important skills of working with a teammate or just being on a team.”
The 18-year-old son of Mike and Jessica Archer, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, was honored earlier this month as one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2016 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Selected from more than 29,000 youth volunteers from across the country, Archer was one of five high school state nominees to be bestowed the title of National Honoree during a luncheon at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
“I was the last high school state honoree to be named,” said Archer, who plans to major in business communications and technology at Husson University in Bangor beginning this fall.
“The first words I heard were ‘from Old Town, Maine …’ and those words literally took my breath away. I was so proud to walk to the stage of this famous auditorium and accept this award, not for me but for my community and for everyone who has helped me to build my foundation by supporting me and the projects it encompasses.”
Archer was recognized for his efforts to educate the public about autism and the challenges faced by people with autism, doing much of that work through The Courageous Steps Project he founded in 2014.
The project’s initial walk-run fundraiser to benefit local schools that help children with special needs raised nearly $4,000. Last year’s walk-run, combined with other fundraising activities, such as a benefit dinner at a local restaurant, have pushed his total to more than $12,000.
Much of that money has been donated to organizations that played a key role in Archer’s own development as well as other groups that work with kids with autism. Archer also has awarded scholarships to graduating high school seniors who have overcome their own challenges, purchased iPads and a sound system for his former preschool and conducted two drives to collect supplies for area schools.
For more information on Connor Archer’s volunteer activities, access thecourageousstepsproject.org.