We have been blessed with amazing grandchildren and when our granddaughter, when Kassidy a 4th grader at Olympia West she shared with us that her Student Council had chosen Autism Awareness as their school fundraiser, we were deeply touched! She shared with them many stories about her Uncle Jonny and how he loved to talk about being autistic and could come and play his guitar, too!
Our next recipient is the wonderful Sponsor of that event, Mrs. Pam Nelson. She could have chosen any cause but her heart led her to choose autism and that opened up a whole new world for our son. He met several times with the committee and brainstormed ways they could set up stations to show how it feels to be autistic with the students. He drove out to Minier each time on his own and wrote is own presentation.
What makes this meeting with Mrs. Nelson so important is this was the first time Jon was being paid, as a professional speaker. She was kind, patient, encouraging and very interested in what Jon had to share. She genuinely cared deeply about Jon’s life experiences. For a total stranger to invest that much time and energy into his message was just plain AWESOME.
It was 10 days before his presentation that Jon with the help of Russ Leone renamed his foundation HEAL because it sounded cooler. Jon’s friend, Ryan Manuel worked long hours to design posters and brochures to promote this event. He was featured on the news and quoted in the Pantagraph. She wrote Jon a beautiful letter thanking him for coming and sharing her feelings about how amazing he was and what a gift he was to our community. He kept it and we reread it often. It is placed in the suitcase we packed for Jon to take to heaven.
This one decision made by you, Pam Nelson changed Jon’s perception about his future and the direction of his foundation and for your gift of good judgement, we proudly present Pam Nelson with our HERO Award.
From the first moment I heard about Jon from his sister Jeni, I was fascinated by him. We were going to be having an Autism Awareness month at Olympia West Elementary in Minier, and I felt strongly that he should be a part of it in some capacity. I continued to be in awe of him when I met him. To hear his story about his experience throughout school, and to listen to him sing, was to me a surreal, amazing experience. I met with my principal because I knew I wanted him to talk to some of my parents. Not only did Jon have the floor during an assembly at Olympia West, but we were later able to have a private meeting with my students with autism and their parents. What better opportunity for parents wanting the very best for their children. They were as grateful as I was for that time to have discussion and question and answer session. For people in attendance at the assembly, they felt it was the most touching and meaningful assembly we had ever had at West. For the parents and students at the private meeting, there were many tears and revelations. After that, I was hooked. He was and is still my hero. He totally blew me away with his talent, faith, and energy. This world is a better place for him having been here.