GRAND FORKS — Greyson, just 3 years old, began showing signs early in life that he wasn’t quite the same as other kids his age.
Her mother and father, Deshawn Lawrence and Joe Jetty, had their suspicions. Between flapping his arms, tiptoeing and lining up his toys by size and color, Jetty said he wasn’t incredibly surprised to hear the news.
In December 2021, Jetty took his son Greyson to the Altru Autism Diagnostic Center at the Altru Performance Center where he was diagnosed with autism.
The clinic has one of the only multidisciplinary teams designated for the treatment of autism in the state, including social workers, a pediatric neurologist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a physical therapist and a pediatrician. The service was launched in 2012 and was initially funded by grants. Now, the Jetty Motorcycle Club has made a pact to hold a ride every year to raise money for the facility that diagnosed Greyson and allowed him to progress in his communication skills at no cost to his family.
“Over the years it has been so successful and the community has identified such a need for it that we started taking donations after the grant ran out,” said Paige Thompson, supervisor of outpatient therapy services at the clinic.
The clinic now operates at no cost to patients through insurance or out-of-pocket fees and sees an average of 75 patients each year. The majority are from the Grand Forks area, but they come from all over North Dakota.
“The majority are from this area, but we’ve had people traveling as far west in North Dakota as Williston, and we have some from Minnesota traveling here just based on our team approach that we have for that,” Thompson said.
Jetty said he took the news pretty well, but it was at least partly because the level of care Greyson received stood out for him.
“There (were) several doctors who (had) seen him, helped diagnose him (and) they connected us with other outside resources that could potentially improve our son’s life,” Jetty said. “It’s probably the same for all autistic children.”
Greyson receives occupational therapy and speech therapy twice a week. Jetty said Greyson’s speech is coming and hitting a milestone in the past two months. He now repeats everything he hears from his parents.
“He’s super smart, but he’s semi-verbal,” Jetty said. “He starts talking more as time goes on. But he’s a normal 3-year-old, he just doesn’t speak (well).
Jetty is a Sergeant-at-Arms for the Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club and has been involved with them since becoming a probate member in 2012. The club is based in cities across the United States, and Jetty is owned by the Devils Lake location where it lives, which has 19 members. He said the club is made up mostly of firefighters and paramedics.
“I’ve been riding motorcycles all my life,” Jetty said. “I had some really good friends, and they wanted me to start riding with them around 2012.”
After Greyson was diagnosed with autism, someone at the clinic told Jetty that it was funded entirely by donations. A light bulb immediately went on in his head.
“Guys, we’re always looking for ideas to help the community and anyone who needs help, basically,” Jetty said.
The Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club held the first of what will become an annual two-part motorcycle race for autism awareness. The first part was June 5 and the second part was July 9, which brought just over 70 bikes. The race consisted of five stops over 250 miles. During the race, the club raised just over $6,700 for Altru’s Autism Diagnostic Center.
“I mean, $6,700 for a setup like this doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s something,” Jetty said. “You can’t put a price on peace of mind, so to speak. I know I speak for all of us (that) it feels good to help everyone and everyone who walks through these doors.