A Home for Austin is a well-known cause in the communities of Tea and Lennox. Austin Schoppert is a young boy, who at the age of three lost his arms and legs to a rare form of bacterial meningitis. As a kindergarten student at Tea Area in 2013 he inspired two teachers to dream big. It was then that teachers Tracy Schmidt and Holly Peterson formed a committee that became known as “A Home for Austin” with one goal in mind, to build Austin a handicap-accessible home.
Austin is now nine years old and in the third grade and this month moved into his new handicap-accessible home. The years that have led to this homecoming have been filled with challenges, but the generosity of others is what makes this story unique.
The home was built with donations of money, labor and materials. The bulk of construction was completed at the Lennox High School by Lennox and Tea Area high school students in 2014 as part of their construction class. The home was moved in July of 2014 to its permanent lot in Tea, donated by Herman and Melissa Otten. Work continued to finish the interior of the home this past year, almost all of which was done by volunteers.
A key leader in the project was Jessica Peterson, who volunteered as project manager. In an email to those who donated she writes,
“I wanted to share 3 special words with all of you…
· Three words that pay tribute to all of the time, talents, money and materials you have donated!
· Three words that embody unmeasurable feelings of joy, hope, and love!
· Three words that have given independence to someone who may never see your face or know your name!
· Three words that make every step of this journey count for something bigger than ourselves!
· Three words that honor your decision to say ‘yes, I will help!’ You said yes to help a little boy who is not your child, more than likely not your neighbor, and probably not even a friend of the family!
· Three words that end a very long book that couldn’t have been written without you! We may not have known the specifics of how the book started, we didn’t always know how those middle chapters would turn out, the book was longer than we anticipated, and the ending wasn’t exactly how we thought it would be when we started, but we finished it all the same!
· Three words that will give a young boy a chance at a different life – one he can control!
· Three words that are the only way to express how thankful I am for the privilege of working with each and every one of you!
· Three words that put a smile on a little red head’s face!
· Three words that have brought tears to grown men and women!
· Three words that I will never in my lifetime forget!
AUSTIN IS HOME!”
The accomplishment of building a home like this is something that Austin’s father, Mike knows is rare. He said, “The magnitude of the what they did, what the whole community did, is amazing.”
Austin and his dad are feeling at home already. Austin said his favorite part of the house is his bedroom. Mike said Austin had never had his own room before.
Austin has had other “firsts” in the house, too, like being able to use the restroom all by himself.
Mike said, “He’d never been able to do that before on his own. It’s a new found freedom.”
Mike speaks like any proud parent would as he explains how things work for Austin, like his handicap-accessible bathroom. Other opportunities that create independence for Austin are small things, like a step-stool at just the right height to allow him to get on the chair to do his homework, and a microwave oven placed low so he can access it.
Mike said he’s looking forward to summer when Austin will be able to go outside in the backyard. Ramps and door-openers create a sense of freedom that Austin has never had before.
Mike said, “I can’t express my gratitude, I’m so thankful. We feel so blessed.”
He added that he and Austin would be working on thank you pictures for each of the donors, Mike said there are so many it will take months.
For now, he and his son will settle into the home built by many for one special boy, welcome home Austin.