Oscar's Walk


Oscar Terri Sydney 



Tribal member Oscar Saldana, 17, has faced and prevailed against many challenges throughout his life due to living with autism. His primary support in tough times is his immediate family. Yet with the growth of Team Oscar, Saldana knows for sure that his fellow students, teachers, and his Wichita people walk alongside him.


"It does give me great joy to see people I know who are nice to me," Saldana said, "be it at school or at home. It gives me great joy and a really great feeling that I'm not alone."


Team Oscar began in 2011 when his family organized a team for the "Walk Now" fund-raising campaign for Autism Speaks. When Autism Speaks no longer sponsored their event, Team Oscar joined AutismOklahoma's  "PieceWalk," which took place May 6, 2017 at the Chickasaw Nation Bricktown Ballpark.


This time, however, it was different. Saldana's mother, Melonie Saldana, counted at least 93 participants who were there with him, including many students, faculty and administration from Anadarko High School. Saldana credits Oscar's teacher, Pam Laubach, for the high level of high school support.

 Team Oscar Group Pic




"He does know he's autistic," Melonie Saldana said. "He does know there are challenges. There are things he struggles with socially. For us, this autism walk is to let him know, 'You have all of these people behind you when you feel lonely, and you think you don't have anybody.'"


In addition to the people who came to support Oscar, the team also raised $1945.00, being within the top 20 fund-raisers for PieceWalk. Fund-raising efforts included a taco sale and sales at cost of the "Team Oscar" t-shirts. Registration fees for the Wichita Walking Club were also donated to Team Oscar.


When not working on autism awareness and education, Oscar enjoys reading, listening to music and collecting Star Wars memorabilia. A junior at Anadarko High School, his elective and extracurricular activities include playing tuba for high school band and being a member of the National Honor Society. At the May 9, 2017 Band Banquet, Oscar was recognized for "Best Chewbacca Sound" and voted this year's Band King.


As a student leader, Oscar formed a lunch group for those students who are lonely in the lunchroom and need a friend. With his older brother, Lucius, graduating and going off to college, Oscar knows how it can feel to be alone and doesn't want others to feel that way.

"The group is for people who have no friends but want to come to lunch and just talk about some stuff," Oscar said, with movies and Star Wars being popular topics of conversation.


"There is so much he has to offer," Melonie Saldana said about her son. "I always tell people, 'If you haven't met Oscar, get to know him.' Everyone that he meets, they love him. He always has a place in their heart."


In addition to his mother and brother Lucius, the founding members of Team Oscar include his father, Tito Saldana, and his sisters, Elizabeth and Leyla. On his Wichita side of the family, he is the grandson of Robert Earl French, Jr. and the great-grandson of Mary Hagan Grange. With his Kiowa side, he is the grandson of Mary Ahhaitty Jones and the great-grandson of Bessie Silverhorn Ahhaitty and the late Rev. Reuben Ahhaitty.

Team Oscar will continue next year. Donations for this year can also be made directly on AutismOklahoma's Team Oscar page at https://piecewalk.org/team/team-oscar.