I came in contact with the man. Dan the man.

Dan Marino a childhood icon in my eyes growing up in Miami, despite never being on a Super Bowl-winning team, is recognized as one of the greatest quarterbacks in American football history. Marino who is now retired has filled his void as a competitor on the gridiron on a personal level through growing community work for a special cause; autism.

The Dan Marino Foundation was established in 1992 by Marino and his wife, Claire, after their son, Michael, was diagnosed with autism. The foundation has delivered millions of dollars, through research, services, and treatment programs serving children with neurodevelopment disabilities.

“It has been 25 years since we started the foundation so we are very proud of that. We have accomplished a lot and it has been lot of fun,” Marino stated. “We’ve had a lot of help from the people in the community in all of Florida.”

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Dan and Claire Marino

Marino is known as a family man. He and his wife, Claire, have six children, two of whom were adopted from China. For more than 20 years, his foundation to combat autism has helped South Florida families diagnose and treat children with the disorder. Claire has shared repeatedly the money will remain in the community particularly for the growing needs.

I attended the 7th Annual Dan Marino Foundation WalkAbout Autism & Expo. The family atmosphere was above welcoming moreover with a fanatic football theme as a backdrop.

“The thing about this day is that it is a fun day for families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities,” Marino stated.

Every year thousands of members of the South Florida community come together to generate autism awareness, raise money, and enjoy a fun-filled day with their families, friends, classmates and colleagues. All with the start of small idea from Dan, Claire and Michael’s inspiration, it has expanded through the years.

Schools and non-profits can register to receive 25% back of the money their teams raise, all funds earned through the event support the Dan Marino Foundation, local schools, and the organizations that provide services to the South Florida autism community.

“What’s most important is the money raised here, stays here. It is in our community helping children and families here,” Claire Marino stated.

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Michael Marino

The autism program at the Nicklaus Children’s Dan Marino Outpatient Center is internationally recognized and offers a comprehensive care program for autism and other developmental/cognitive disorders in children referred from all over the world. The Center also coordinates community outreach projects that include the services of specialized medical and allied healthcare professionals, educational organizations, volunteer programs and parent support organizations. Marino has teamed with other celebrities including fellow NFL quarterback Doug Flutie whose son also has an autism diagnosis, to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders.

“It has been an amazing 25 years, watching everything grow up. Hopefully there is 25 more, 75 more, we are going to have a fantastic time, it has been amazing,’’ Michael Marino said.

On March 23, 2010, The Dan Marino Foundation held its first “Walkabout Autism.” More than 6,000 walkers participated, as well as 420 volunteers provided by the Miami Dolphins Special Teams. The money raised benefited several funds.

Dan may not be the man for winning a Super Bowl. However one can make a point the support for the autism community deserves a championship banner raised yearly.