A heartwarming graduation reflection
In elementary school, when Gina’s daughter, Katie (diagnosed with Asperger’s), was struggling with fitting in, she would often say to Gina, “Why am I different Mom? It’s not fair! I want to be like everyone else.”
Heartbroken, Gina didn’t know how to respond, particularly since at the time, she felt the same way.
Why did her sweet daughter have to be different?
Luckily, Katie was blessed with a Godmother, Patty, who was able to offer some insight. One day, Patty presented Katie with a book, The Little Engine That Could. She told Katie that the “Little Blue Engine” in the story, reminded her of Katie because things are not easy for Katie, but she never gives up. Eventually, the book became part of Gina and Katie’s bedtime reading ritual and Gina would often tell Katie, “You are that little engine. You eventually get where everyone else is; it just takes a little longer. And, you have something those other trains in the story that go fast don’t have; you have heart.”
Well, we are happy to announce that Katie, our now-not so-Little Engine made it to one destination — high school graduation. On Saturday, June 8, she, along with nine of her peers, graduated from Willow Hill School, where she has spent the last 7 years.
Willow Hill’s graduation ceremony is unlike others. Each student has the opportunity to make a speech and share their reflections on what graduation and the school has meant to them. For Katie and all our family, it was a bittersweet day. She was thrilled to hit this incredible milestone, yet deeply saddened that her beloved grandmother (our cute little mother) didn’t live to see it. Katie’s grandmother loved Willow Hill, where she thrilled in watching Katie’s amazing theater performances.
Though Katie breaks down when talking about her grandmother, her story is a very uplifting one. She nearly fell apart in elementary school, but through the support she received from family and friends and through the teachers and school that believed in her, she was not only able to graduate high school, but also will head off to live at college in the Fall.
Later that evening at Katie’s graduation party, one of the fathers from Willow Hill approached Gina and said, “Katie’s speech touched my heart. I turned to my wife and said, ‘I don’t know this person she’s talking about who passed away, but I can feel her. She is right here watching.I’ve never felt so strongly about anything.'”
Watch Katie’s Graduation Speech. And in the spirit of our amazing special children, tell us about an accomplishment your special child achieved.