The single most important part of my life is my family. They mean everything to me. They are my best friends, devil’s advocates, shoulders to cry on, counselors, advice columnists, competitors and my strongest motivators. One of my most influential family members is my cousin, Luke.
Luke has forever changed my life, and he is only five years old. In 2006, at the age of two, Luke was diagnosed with autism. This hit my family hard. We have never had a family member with a learning disability. My entire family made adjustments to help Luke.
Soon after the diagnosis I decided to take things into my own hands and help Luke in the best way I knew how: learning. I learned what he goes through on a daily basis. I learned what schools, therapies and other educational needs he must have. I learned what it takes to babysit him. I learned what my aunt, uncle and Luke’s older sister have to go through to take care of him properly. I learned all I could about autism, about its symptoms, treatments and theories. I used all this knowledge to start educating others.
Two years ago my cousin Liz and I decided we wanted to impact Luke’s life in a positive way. We knew how much it costs for our aunt and uncle to put Luke into programs that would greatly improve his abilities. We put our minds together and came up with a way to raise money for his education.
We knew a few boutique owners in our area and went to them with a proposal. We asked them if they would designate a day when they would donate a portion of their profits to the Luke Holmes Autism Education Fund. We also sold puzzle piece pins at each of the locations to raise money. And we took donations. We told all of our friends and invited parents from Luke’s schools. The $2,000 we raised went directly to pay for Luke’s education.
The following year we decided to host another fundraiser. We took a different approach. Members of our family are big scrapbookers, and we asked them to gather all the materials and supplies they no longer needed and pool it together to hold a giant scrapbook yard sale. We worked for a week organizing and setting up all of the product we received from family members and friends. Again, we invited all of our friends and parents from Luke’s schools, but we also advertised on Craigslist. This allowed us to expand our customer base to more than just the people we know. Last year we raised $3,000 dollars for Luke.
This year I have taken the challenge on by myself. At my high school, each senior must complete a senior project to graduate. I chose to raise money for Luke for my senior project. Even though I am just starting to plan, I feel I can reach my goal of raising $5,000.
While reading “Hamlet” in AP Composition and Literature, the class discussed what a person would be willing to give his or her life for.
I thought about it long and hard and came up with an answer I truly believe in.
I would give my life for Luke and others with autism.
I feel so strongly about Luke and every other person who has autism, that I would give my life for them to not have to deal with it every day. I am so privileged to be able to live my life without struggling every day. I take for granted that my life is so easy. People with autism struggle with changing their clothes, recognizing their name, reacting to changes in their routine and completing tasks most people find simple.
Because I see what he goes through every day and I know there are so many more people out there like him, I think my life isn’t as important as having millions of people have a better life.
I would do it in a heartbeat.
I love Luke with all my heart and would do anything for him. I will continue to help him in any way I can.
This “In Their Own Words” essay is written by Kate Linman, a high school senior at Piper High School in Kansas City, Kan. This was originally written as a college admissions essay. This April, she hosted a successful walk-a-thon called “Lace Up 4 Luke.”
If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.