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Family Splits Time Between 2 Cities For Daughter's Autism Therapy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Next month WCCO is Pulling Together for a giant tug-of-war across the Mississippi River.

All of the money raised for the event will go to a local organization that helps family members with special needs.

Fraser is working on a campaign called the 35/35 vision. It's to make sure no family has to travel more than 35 minutes or 35 miles for treatment.

"It's definitely a struggle that way," Ryan Nelson said.

Ryan and Melanie Nelson had few options available to them when their baby girl, Harper, was diagnosed with autism.

"In rural Minnesota there's not a lot of services for children on the spectrum," Ryan Nelson said.

The family, who lives in Willmar, heard about Fraser, the largest provider of autism services in the state. But the closest facility was in Eden Prairie, over 90 miles from their home.

"We watch a lot of Elmo DVDs in the car," Melanie Nelson said.

Harper Nelson
(credit: CBS)

The drive was too much. But they still had a young son in school in Willmar and Ryan had his job.

The family decided to purchase a house in Mountrose, a halfway point between Harper's therapy and their life at home.

"It's about an hour in the morning with traffic in the cities," Melanie Nelson said.

The family stays in Mountrose during the week and goes back to Willmar on the weekend.

It's a hectic schedule and a struggle but worth it. Harper has seen dramatic improvement in the last year.

"We've definitely seen Harper's confidence grow a lot. She seems a lot more comfortable and familiar with the staff and the other peers around her. She's a lot happier," mental health practitioner Nicole Fogarty said.

The family says they hope Fraser reaches their 35/35 vision, so no other family will have to sacrifice the way they have in order to find help

"It's very frustrating because you know that there's a lot of kids that aren't getting their needs met, not getting the services that they deserve," Melanie Nelson said.

"It would be huge for all the children in need in the state," Ryan Nelson said.

All of the money raised from WCCO's Pulling Together campaign will help children like Harper get treatment.

You can donate now online, and plan to join us on June 10 at Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul to cheer us on.

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