The first South Jersey 5K for Tourette Syndrome is coming to Medford Lakes this Sunday and Dawson Coyle can’t wait.
The Gloucester County native is making a name for himself throughout the region as an award-winning singer/songwriter and will bring his sound to NJ Walks for TS. He says encouraging audiences with his music is a big part of what he does, but this event holds an even deeper meaning for the 16-year-old.
Dawson was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS) at the age of five. A neurological disorder, TS is characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. As many as 1 in 100 children exhibit symptoms of TS which is frequently accompanied by ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mental health issues, and learning disabilities.
“Having TS and being aware of the everyday struggle of all that comes along with it makes it a very real issue for me,” he said.
NJ Walks for TS is a day of advocacy and awareness, started for kids, by kids to benefit kids with Tourette Syndrome. In addition to encouraging peers and younger kids to embrace life by connecting with something they enjoy doing, Dawson would like to help bring the public to a greater understanding of TS.
“This is not a joke,” he said, “I’ve heard the term [Tourette] negatively in describing others as a joke my whole life and it’s not funny.”
“For me, personally, when I hold back my motor tics, it’s like holding back a blink but in every part of your body—it’s exhausting,” he said. “[TS] waxes and wanes, it’s very possible to see me not ticking for extended periods of time…there is no rhyme or reason.”
For Dawson, and many of the other 20,000 school aged children and teens with TS, the outward appearance is the tip of the iceberg.
“Many times we struggle with our thoughts,” he said. “Depression, anxiety, OCD and so many other things come along with it.”
Ultimately, he wants everyone—especially those struggling with the disorder—to know that “those things do not have to overtake someone with TS.”
Dawson credits his faith, parents and music for helping him keep a positive mindset.
“I really want to be an encouragement to others with TS,” he said, “to show them that they can find something they’re good at, work hard at it and, in return, can also encourage and inspire others.”
All proceeds from NJ Walks for TS at Medford Lakes will benefit the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome’s (NJCTS) Education Outreach Program, which delivers in-service trainings to schools and hospitals across the state, youth leadership training, and scholarships.
To register or donate, visit http://njcts.org/walk. On-site check-in begins at 8 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 20 at Beach 1/Vaughan Hall (Tabernacle Road) in Medford Lakes.
For more information on Dawson Coyle, visit http://www.dawsonmusic11.com/