Ashton absolutely loves being outside. Due to the location of our home (surrounded by woods, lakes and curvy roads), the only time he is outside in nature is going to and from the car when we go places - which isn't very often, to be honest. I hate that he can't go outside to play and explore like other kids. Ashton elopes, just like 50% of other kids on the autism spectrum. What that basically means for him, is that he will wander (run) away from a safe environment without caution or awareness of danger. He has pulled away from us and ran down the middle of the road, he has gotten out of school and our home on multiple occasions once he has timed and planned each perfect escape. He has walked into a random house, nearly been hit by a car and more. The danger of wandering is very scary which is why we limit going places and being outside. He does have a fenced in yard and playground at school, which he ADORES. The playground is so motivating for him that it is one of the first things he verbally asked for when he began to talk. "Playground" became "I want playground" which evolved into "Follow me to the playground, please" which is what he said to his daddy last week during the open house at Kayleigh's school.
In May of this year, Jon and I began actively perusing fencing our yard to give Ashton the opportunity to play outside. We had just received our tax refund and thought it would be the perfect time. We began collecting bids from fencing companies and people we know in the construction business. The first bid we received was from a guy that I knew from working in property management, he would be doing it on the side so I thought it would be affordable. I was shocked when the estimate came back at $4,500. The other two bids we got were even more than that! YIKES!
Not only was the $4,500 way more that what we thought it would be but it was more than we had. We are not monetarily wealthy by any means, raising children with special needs is a very expensive task and siphons away any and all "extra" money! We ended up again experiencing this the first week of June when Ashton was hospitalized for a few days again due to his "wonderful" gastrointestinal issues. Away went the cushion of "extra funds".
With all that being said, to be perfectly honest, I am one of those people who do for themselves and find it extremely hard to ask for or accept help even when I really need it. When a friend suggested asking for donations it was really hard for me to even think of it as an option but the way that she phrased it made me really think. She said "Allow people to directly help a child with Autism". All of a sudden a realization came to me that people love to help, people get joy from helping. I have been stealing joy by not giving people the opportunity to help in a situation like this where my own pride is keeping Ashton from playing outside. MY OWN PRIDE! That really sunk in. OK God, I get it!
I set up a website for donations, Facebook and Twitter pages for awareness. I also got some great ideas for allowing local businesses to help. I thought about Home Depot and the role they played in the recent "Light It Up Blue"campaign for Autism Awareness Month in April. I decided to email the local Home Depot. I called and got the email address for the manager, Jessica. The following is the email I sent:
Good evening, I was told you are the perfect person I need to speak with. I understand that Home Depot is known for its charitable work and volunteer programs within the community. I am also aware that your company was very involved with the “Light It Up Blue” campaign with Autism Speaks in April of this year which brings me to why I am contacting you.
To make a long story short my 6 year old son, Ashton, has autism and exhibits severe eloping behaviors. A fenced yard would mean the world to our family and to Ashton. Currently he is unable to play outside like other children his age (unless he is at school or at my mom’s house, both areas are fenced). At any moment no matter how “supervised” he is, he could bolt (and does) and from experience it takes every ounce of strength from my 6ft 2in husband to catch up to him if he gets away. Our house is locked down like Fort Knox and we also participate in the project lifesaver program to dull the constant worry although it does not take the place of having a safe place for my son to play. If we are in a situation outside of the home, he must hold an adults hand which leaves very little freedom for my awesome boy to develop and grow by playing outside and develop his sense of self. My husband and I are trying to raise money to purchase a fence for our backyard.
Please feel free to visit www.afenceforashton.com for more information about my son, the importance of a fence and our unique situation. Please let me know if this is something that Home Depot would be interested in getting involved with.
Thank you so much for your time.
I was honestly not really expecting much. I was hoping for maybe a discount on materials or something, but the response I received was awe inspiring I got an email back that evening stating that she would look into what they were able to do and that Ashton touched her heart. She told me she would contact me in about a week. She called me a week later and told me that not only were they going to be completely covering the costs of the materials, but were going to be recruiting volunteers from three Home Depot locations to help build the fence. WHAT? Seriously? How awesome is that? The Home Depot team came out a few weeks later to meet Ashton and take some measurements. They brought him his very own Home Depot apron!
I am sorry but if this entire situation didn't teach me something, I don't know what will. This whole process has been extremely humbling and amazing! There has been some red tape and planning but the official date of the fence build is this Friday September 13, 2013! We are extremely excited! Stay tuned for pictures and updates!
P.S. If you need anything for your own home improvement projects, check Home Depot first! They have our continued loyalty and I hope they have yours! They really do care!