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Former Hall teacher walks for camp scholarships
Woman raising awareness about Focus group for autistic children
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Betty Ray, 65, starts her awareness walk for children with autism and other disabilities Thursday in Gainesville. She was also hoping to raise awareness about “Focus,” an organization that gives scholarships to children with autism to attend summer camps from toddler to age 26. Ray’s grandson received one of those scholarships, and she wanted to give back to the organization and will be walking 100 miles in 10 different cities, starting in Gainesville.

How to donate

Got to www.focus-ga.org or mail a check to: Focus, 3825 Presidential Parkway, Suite 103, Atlanta, GA 30340. Those who choose can make a note with their donation that it is “In honor of Betty Ray.”

With 8.91 miles completed of a 10-mile solo charity walk in Gainesville Thursday afternoon, Betty Ray knew she would complete her goal for the day.

“I feeling good, but I am ready to sit down,” she said. “I knew it would be difficult, but it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be.”

Ray, 65, finished the day, walking 10.11 miles through Gainesville on Thursday.

For Ray, her trek did not end in Hall County. Thursday was just the first of 10 days in which she plans to walk 100 miles total in an effort to raise money for a program that gives kids with “fragile” medical conditions and disabilities a chance to go to camp.

Ray’s 16-year-old grandson Jujuan Shaw has autism. In recent years, Ray, Shaw and other family members have been able to attend Focus Camp Under the Stars as a family. They will be going again this year.

She is hoping her 10 days of walking will raise funds to allow others to be able to receive scholarships to attend the camp.

“I am trying to give back, and giving of myself is the best thing that I have to give,” Ray said. “My little grandson got scholarships to go to two of the camps that we would not have been able to afford. Because he’s getting to go, I hope that more kids will get to go to summer camp.”

She is focusing on downtown areas and plans to walk 10 miles each day. On Friday, she plans to be in Habersham County to walk five miles each in Cornelia and Clarkesville. Her husband, Herman, goes  ahead of her in his car and gives her information about how many miles she has traveled. Along the way she is giving out brochures about Focus and its camps with an address and the website where donations can be sent.

“I’m in love with the Focus group that will work with these children to give them as normal of a life as possible,” Ray said.

Ray said she had not been a walker prior to this project other than participating in a few 5-kilometer events.

“I have been training,” she said. “I bought me a really good pair of shoes. And I’ve been walking every day for the past three weeks, and a couple of times I have gotten to 10 miles. I wanted to see what my body felt like. My body can handle it.”

Ray, who taught at both Tadmore and White Sulphur elementary schools in 21 years with Hall County Schools, plans to include walks in Covington, Conyers, Monroe, Winder, Athens, McDonough, Stockbridge and Decatur.

“I chose cities that I was familiar with,” she said. “Athens is the only one that is kind of strange to me. Although I’ve been there, I’ve never had anything going on where I had to know something about the city.”

Joy Trotti, associate director of Focus, said the organization has been in the metropolitan Atlanta area for 33 years helping families and children who are “medically fragile” or have developmental disabilities. She said the organization currently serves about 20,000 people in more than 4,000 families.

She said Shaw has participated in the Focus swim team, fashion show and other activities. In addition to the family camp, Ray’s grandson will also be attending camp by himself for the first time.

“Jujuan is just delightful,” Trotti said. “She loves her grandson so much. She wants him to have the very best things in life and, for her, those best things are a lot of the things Focus provides.”

Those who want to make a donation can send it to www.focus-ga.org or mail a check to: Focus, 3825 Presidential Parkway, Suite 103, Atlanta, Ga. 30340. Those who choose can make a note with their donation that it is “In honor of Betty Ray.”

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