World Autism Day (April 2) is not an event on many triathletes’ calendars. For Julie Bockey, two-time Ironman finisher and mom of two boys, it is one of the most important days of the year.
Bockey’s two sons, Jake (21) and Christian (23), both have autism. Bockey and her husband are their full-time caregivers. Instead of letting adversity separate her family from the crowd, the Bockey crew are frequent participants at local run/walk races and they are certainly the most dedicated cheer crew when Bockey toes the line at a triathlon.
“It’s what we do as a family,” said Bockey. “We enjoy it so much, and it’s what we do. I look forward to when my sons get to race with their dad even more than when I get to race.”
Zoot and the Bockey family met in 2018 after Bockey was named Triathlete magazine’s cover star contest winner. Since then, Zoot President and Owner Shawn O’Shea has kept in close contact with the Bockey clan.
After O’Shea and the Zoot team helped Bockey prepare for a half Ironman, the idea was born to create a custom Tri for Autism kit for her to race in.
“For [Zoot], it’s about supporting Julie,” said O’Shea. “We made the kit, she raced in it, and she was overwhelmingly surprised at how many people identified with [the cause].”
From there, the idea for a publicly available autism awareness kit was born.
O’Shea and Bockey collaborated on colors and design. A puzzle piece is the official symbol of the Autism Awareness movement, and vibrant jigsaw pieces are featured prominently on the black background.
While the original kit was called “Tri for Autism,” O’Shea had a different name marinating for the official line.
“Shawn called me and said, ‘What about ‘Autism Ohana?’” said Bockey. “I almost cried because [Zoot] is like a family.”
Bockey’s main goal for the kit is to simply bring attention to the loads of people who are competing in sport and also face autism challenges in their daily lives whether as a caregiver, friend, or racer.
“I never focus on ‘what can I get,’” said Bockey. “I just want autism awareness and acceptance to grow.”
Despite Bockey’s humility and selflessness, O’Shea is committed to using some of the proceeds to help Bockey’s son, Jake, get outfitted with a new bike that caters to his special needs. Other portions of the dividends will go to supporting autism awareness nonprofits.
With her Autism Ohana kit in tow, Bockey and company have big plans for the second half of 2020.
“I want to get to Ironman Wisconsin through biking and not ride in a car whatsoever,” noted Bockey. “That’s what we’re working towards.”
Complete with a tandem setup for herself and son Jake, Bockey is determined to see this goal through. Follow her journey on Instagram at @BockeyLife.
The Autism Ohana line will be available on April 2 through Zoot.