In Memorial: Cynthia Wild Joyner
In the early morning of July 20th, 2013 an SUV heading the wrong way on Interstate 24 struck a vehicle in which Cynthia Wild-Joyner was a passenger and Cynthia was killed.
Many of you know Cynthia because of her constant presence at the Chattanooga Autism Center where she built so many programs, spoke with and mentored other parents, created fliers, printed posters, took countless phone calls, greeted walk-ins, ran the support group, wrote posts for the web, organized new events and activities, played with and also took care of kids, and did anything else that needed to be done. She volunteered so much that in April of 2013, Cynthia Joyner was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award at the 4th annual Chattanooga Autism Conference.
Here is the story of how Cynthia came to mean so much to so many in the Autism community.
Cynthia has a son, Matthew, who has autism and for years Cynthia too often noticed that in public people would often stare or give disapproving looks at her son’s behavior, or sometimes at her…as though she was not “parenting appropriately”. This caused a strong desire within Cynthia to educate people about her son and about autism so people’s stares would turn into looks of understanding and empathy.
And for those of you who know Cynthia, you know what happens when she has a strong desire.
Cynthia came up with a plan to host events for families and for the public that were fun, entertaining, but also would build autism awareness in her community. She called her project “Play me a Riddle” and she organized a party for the public in April 2012 at Lindsey Street Hall that had family activities and music, but also invited autism-related organizations to exhibit. Families came for the fun but also got to learn something about autism that day.
I got to know Cynthia around when she was planning the Lindsey Street Hall event and explained what we do at the CAC and how parents and advocates are the ones who build everything. She was floored and quickly plugged herself into the CAC. She planned more events and by August she had a library tour, an Aquarium visit, and the first Pints for Autism under her belt. Cynthia had more than found a home at the CAC, she became a critical piece.
The first Pints for Autism raised over $1500 for the CAC thanks to Cynthia’s expertise at wrangling bands and her connections at the Honest Pint. The second Pints for Autism attracted a mystery donor who matched all the funds up to $5000. With Pints and some other events and donors, we raised over $10,000 after matching.
Cynthia was just warming up with these projects though. She started ClubSib for kids who have siblings with Autism. She recognized in her own typically developing daughter that these siblings have specific needs too and deserve their own events and attention. Cynthia and other volunteers hosted ClubSib Ice Cream Socials, ClubSib Belly Dancing, and other get-togethers where these kids got the full attention for a change.
Cynthia created H.O.P.E. (Helping Other Parents Excel); a twice monthly meet-up group for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers who have kids with autism. Cynthia specifically designed this program to be positive and simple so it would always be inviting. The purpose was to make it easy for parents to help other parents, and to get help themselves.
Cynthia raised money with retailers called “Shop with a Cause”. She took on the Sensory movie planning, helped us get a free exhibitor spot at the Chattanooga Market, and coordinated the upcoming aquarium trip.
Cynthia’s energy and enthusiasm inspired others to jump in on projects and led to the rapid growth the Chattanooga Autism Center has experienced in the last year. We were proud to honor her and her impact on the autism community by presenting her with the Chattanooga Autism Centers’ volunteer of the year award this past May.
Cynthia was an advocate for autism awareness, education and support to families. Her legacy stands now and forever in this relentless pursuit of compassion and understanding of the autism community. The Chattanooga Autism Center is proud to have known her, worked with her and even prouder of the work she accomplished. There is no greater embodiment of the CAC’s mission than that assumed and lived by Cynthia Wild-Joyner .
The CAC would like the community to know that her infectious spirit will continue to be a motivating factor in everything we do and our Board of Directors, clinicians, director, and CAC families will keep her in our heart and minds as we continue to move forward with our cause, because that is what Cynthia would want us to do. Cynthia taught all of us how to be more, do more, and accomplish more. We miss her greatly.
Pints for Autism III will go on as schedule tonight, 7/21/13 at 7pm at the Honest Pint at the request of Cynthia’s family. They knew the passion and effort Cynthia has put into making this event a success. The funds raised at Pints III will be donated to the Joyner family to offset their expenses in the untimely loss of their dear wife and mother, Cynthia Wild-Joyner.
If you are unable to come to Pints III and you wish to send a donation please make your checks out to Ricardo Joyner, c/o Chattanooga Autism Center, 1400 McCallie Avenue, Suite 100, Chattanooga, TN 37404.
Tara Viland, Cynthia’s close friend, is coordinating a memorial event for Cynthia. Details about the time will be announced as the family is able to complete funeral plans. Those who wish to be be involved with the memorial for Cynthia can contact the Chattanooga Autism Center at 423-531-6961 or, those who wish to speak at the memorial can contact Tara Viland at firstname.lastname@example.org.