Grandparents driven to make life better for grandson, autism community.
Three years ago Linda Kendrick visited the Heartspring Hearing Center to donate her mother’s hearing aids. That simple act changed the lives of Linda and her husband, Willie, forever. While at Heartspring, she saw a flyer on the front desk for an autism preschool day camp being offered on campus. Their grandson, Londan, had recently been diagnosed with autism and they were eager to learn as much as they could about how to help him. Londan attended the day camp and later began therapy at Heartspring Pediatric Services. Linda was thrilled. “I had no idea how much Heartspring had to offer,” she said. “It was amazing to find this resource that I needed so much.”
As grandparents of a child with autism, Willie and Linda recognize the need for a supportive community to help families meet the challenges of having a child with autism very early on. They became involved in activities to raise awareness during Autism Awareness Month in April 2007, and began to get to know other families and professionals involved with autism, including Connie Coulter, Heartspring’s director of CARE and autism outreach.
Believing that awareness and acceptance are key components to helping people with autism succeed, the Kendricks attended a special event at Heartspring in December that launched the Heartspring CARE Program where they learned that Heartspring was planning to host an autism awareness walk in April 2008. They immediately volunteered to help.
Willie agreed to help sponsor the event, donating $3000 and providing food for participants through his Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits franchises. Linda volunteered to solicit raffle prizes from area businesses. Both Willie and Linda worked tirelessly to make the Autism CARE Walk at Heartspring a success because they feel so strongly that the challenges of autism need to be addressed. They believe that coming together as a community, sharing ideas and successes, and spreading education and awareness of autism are the best ways to make progress.
“We have been blessed by people being put into our lives at the right time and with the right spirit in their hearts. More and more, I believe that life is contingent on moments. One moment can have the impact of a lifetime,” said Willie. “Linda happened to be at Heartspring to donate her mother’s hearing aids at the right moment to learn about the autism day camp. One special moment can make a connection with a child that could influence their lives forever.”
The Kendricks are excited to be involved in the Heartspring CARE Program. “People keep telling us thank you for all we did to make this event a success – I feel like no, thank you! I’m so glad to see Heartspring taking the lead on this issue,” said Willie. ”This organization has been around for 75 years, they have the plan, they have the infrastructure and they have the mission leadership to make a huge difference in the world of autism.”
“Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted as saying, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Willie and Linda Kendrick are true examples of what it means to be that change,” said Coulter. “Seeking out services for their grandson, Londan, has lit a passion in them that extends beyond the love of their own grandson, but in fact, positively impacts many other children with autism spectrum disorders.”