I am personally writing you because inevitably our paths have crossed one way or another. Whether it is because we are family, friends, coworker, associates or have passed each other in the course of our lives. I do not believe in the universe being random and feel all events are woven together in ways that we do not always understand.
The events of my life have brought me to where I am. Positive and negative they have shaped me into the person I am today. The next chapter is yet unwritten…
Today, however, I am writing to you because I believe in the limitless potential of our universe. I believe that if you ask it shall be given to you. If you can dream it and are willing to sacrifice and fight for it then it will be yours!
One day you may meet my son, Malcolm. He is now 14 years old and he remains a light and an abundant joy in my life. He remains trapped in the world of Autism in addition to being deaf and non-verbal. I could have accepted this fact and carried on in life. That would have been easy…but that would not have been my journey.
Six years ago, I left a school meeting, an IEP meeting. This is one that writes goals and expected outcomes for the school year. It was grim. I sat in my car afterwards and cried. I felt exhausted, defeated and not knowing how I was going to continue to fight with the school district for many more years. My Irish father’s voice came to me from beyond and whispered: “Are you crying?” (with sarcasm). Feeling my pity party of one, I nodded through the tears. Louder now I could hear him saying: “no one feels sorry for you or him, so pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get to walking! If you don’t like the way someone else is doing it…do it yourself”! One of my favorite quotes is by Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. So, there it is…my passion and my purpose!
I spent the next five years writing a magnificent wish list of what the ideal school would be. I began to see it take shape. I could envision the rooms, the teachers, the children, the families, the services and it grew larger and stronger inside of me. I spent five years creating a multi-dimensional approach that included: Academics, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, English/Spanish/Sign Language, Music, Art, Athletics, Independent Living Skills, Social Skills, and a beautiful blend of both Eastern and Western medicine. I wrote the applications to the state to become a school as well as the application for the non-profit status thereby obtaining the 501(c)3 status. I longed for a location to simply open the doors. I knocked on church doors, day care centers, strip malls and warehouses. I was met with closed doors and zoning requirements. One day, at the urging of my husband I approached Oxbridge Academy. They already had 40 other prospects asking for the same classrooms as me. After almost a year…they called. My school was selected, through tears and joy, I asked: “Why me?” …I was told “It is the passion in your eyes”. Wahoo…here we go!
On September 6th, 2015, we opened the doors to our first year at Mountaineer’s School of Autism. With 5 very special students and their very brave parents we began our journey. By June we ended the year with 12 and this year on September 6th we began with 18 students! We are overjoyed at the growth in just one year.
A bit about our kids…out of 18 only 7 are verbal, 2 are homeless (one living at The Lords Place and the other in a motel), 11 are below poverty level, and 16 are unable to meet the tuition requirements of $25,000 per year. My promise when I began this mission was that resources and money would NEVER prevent a child from what they needed and deserved! Every student receives funding from the State of Florida which averages to about $12,000 per student. Many parents pay within their ability according to a scale based on their tax returns.
On the upside, the school is debt free and my 18 years working as a Registered Nurse savings in my 401K is dissolved. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it! Here is why you may have read this far…
I NEED YOU! I need you to see that investing in our students in an investment in your community. Investing in our students allows you to see your investment grow locally. Well educated, independent children with disabilities become employable and cooperative members of society tomorrow. By making a tax-deductible donation today you are dramatically and permanently changing a life…with your gesture.
We all have a life journey and I am not proposing that mine is any better or worse. However, if you do not worry about who will care for your non-verbal child when you die, of where in the budget you will find money for speech therapy, occupational therapy or any other number of therapies that you pray will help your child, if you have not experienced the tantrums that are unyielding and relentless either at home or in public, the kind that drive total strangers to offer up their opinions and advice…or the look. Well, then I ask…no I truly BEG of you, please make a donation to our school! What would you spend on a nice dinner? What would you spend for a gift? What would you give if you knew that you were not sending your money around the world to someone you will never meet-but that what you give will help a child in your community today? We are your nieces and nephews, your grandson and granddaughter, we are the kids you watch from afar at the grocery store or the park in your neighborhood. We come to your church, our parents and siblings are tired and in need of love and acceptance. Show you care, show you support your community and please send what is on your heart…we know we can count on YOU and that we do not have to take this journey alone!
At Mountaineer’s we are a family! We survive together when we work together. Take that step UP the mountain WITH us, join hands WITH us and at the top Oh! What a beautiful view we can share TOGETHER!
Thank you for your support! please visit www.msainc.org to make your donation. There you can see the students. No purchased photos on our site—the real thing. Real smiles. Real lives…right in your community! Questions please call: 561-932-3938.
Mary Jo Walsh-Watson, B.S.N., R.N.
and Proud mother of Mighty Malcolm
Mountaineer’s School of Autism, Inc.
1340 Kenwood Road,
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Mountaineer’s School of Autism, Inc. is a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, tax-id: 46-4867711 and all donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
Copyright Mary Jo Walsh-Watson. All rights reserved.