OLD TOWN, Maine — Connor Archer prefers the competitive patience of long-distance running as a member of the Old Town High School cross country and track teams.
His favorite event: the 1,600-meter run.
“It’s just the right amount of distance,” said Archer of the metric mile. “It’s not too fast, and it’s not too long.”
But when it comes to another passion, his Courageous Steps Project, the OTHS junior has the mindset of a sprinter.
Whether it’s his continuing pursuit of sponsorships for the second annual Courageous Steps fundraising event — set for Sunday, May 17, at Victory Field in Old Town — or sharing his personal story of thriving amid the challenges of autism, there’s a relentlessness about the teenager’s efforts that’s impossible to ignore.
Archer already has procured more than 20 business sponsors for this year’s event, and nearly 10 more businesses have donated toward raffles that will be conducted during the fundraiser — which will be highlighted by a 1,600-meter run/walk and include such additional activities as a free-throw shooting contest and home run derby as well as face painting and arts and crafts for younger kids.
Darling’s Ice Cream For a Cause truck also will be on the premises, with proceeds from its sales to benefit Courageous Steps.
The event runs from noon to 4 p.m., and interested persons may pre-register or sign up and check in on the day of the event beginning at 11 a.m. The first 100 to complete their registrations will receive a free T-shirt.
“The most important thing I learned when I did this last year was to start planning earlier, and I’ve done that,” said Archer, the son of Mike and Jessica Archer of Old Town. “I was getting donations the day before it took place last year. This year I’m way ahead of schedule from where I was last year.
“I’m thankful to all the businesses for their support.”
Archer’s cause raised more than $3,700 during the inaugural Courageous Steps fundraiser in 2014, $3,000 of which was donated to the Green House Nursery School in Milford and the Old Town Elementary School K-2 special education program.
Those schools were instrumental in getting Archer started educationally after he was diagnosed with autism at age 3½. Now he is an honor roll student at OTHS, a three-sport letterwinner, a member of three bands and one of two student representatives to the RSU 34 board of directors.
Other money raised last year was set aside to help establish the Courageous Steps Scholarship, which this June will be awarded for the first time to a graduating Old Town High School senior.
“It’s open to anyone who lives with a challenge,” he said, “not just those with disabilities but those who have lived through a challenge in their lives and persevered.”
Archer hopes to raise $8,000 this year to support RSU 34, Milford and RSU 26 (Orono) special education programs — including his efforts to build sensory gardens at the Green House Nursery School and in support of the Courageous Steps Back-To-School Drive, which donates school supplies to RSU 34 member schools to distribute to children in need.
Archer also maintains a website, www.thecourageousstepsproject.org, which provides more information about the project and registration forms for the May 17 event.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Courageous Steps Fund may do so by dropping off or mailing a donation to Old Town High School, 203 Stillwater Ave., Old Town, ME 04468. Make the check out to Old Town High School with Courageous Steps in the memo.
Any business interested in making a donation may email Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org.