When Hurricane Harvey struck last year, my mom, dad, my dog, Mia, and I had to evacuate from our one-story home. I was afraid, but my dad and mom helped me out of our dining room window, placed me on my surfboard, and my mom pushed Mia and I through waist deep water to higher ground. My dad carried my wheelchair and other items I needed in a backpack. As we traveled through the flood waters, a lady in a truck came to our rescue. She and her husband had traveled to our neighborhood to help the flood victims. When we were all safe inside of their truck, my mom posted an update on social media. A friend of hers was very concerned and wanted us to go to her home, but we were taken to a shelter at a local junior high school. We were at the shelter for about 10-15 minutes until my mom’s friend’s husband and his daughter, and, my friend, Anna Celeste, came to take us to their home. We were wet, cold and tired but this family generously gave us warmth, food and shelter.
A week later we found out that three feet of water had entered our home. We lost everything that we owned, including our two minivans. It was a very traumatic event, but we received so much love and support from our community that my mom and dad were able to find the strength to power through it and remain hopeful. We were displaced for four months. During this time, I grew very close to Anna Celeste. She wants to become a special education teacher, so she was a perfect match for me. When her friends would come over to her house, I was always included. We would all sit on the sofa together while they watched Big Brother on their iPhones. I’d peek every now and then to find out what the fuss was about, and they didn’t mind.
When we finally moved back home, Anna Celeste was so interested in me that she became my care provider. She would come every Monday, Wednesday and Friday after school for 4 hours to help my mom. She’d help feed me, bathe and groom me and teach me how to make crafts and work on the computer. We had so much fun and I enjoyed having a friend to help me and follow me around. When summer approached, Anna Celeste began to come over Monday through Friday for 8 hours each day. She even developed an idea to help begin a business called “Sam’s Sweet Treats” for me. She knew I like pretzels, popcorn, peanut butter cookies and fizzy drinks. I also love car rides. Her idea was to take orders for such treats during the summer weeks and then fulfill the orders by baking pretzels and cookies, popping popcorn and making fresh, fizzy lemonade to sell. On Fridays we would go for long car rides to deliver each order. When Anna Celeste presented her idea to my mom and dad, they were so surprised and happy that she wanted to help empower me. They loved it and, basically, helped her run with the idea. They purchased ingredients, created “Sam’s Sweet Treats” T-shirts and caps so we could all have a uniform, business magnets for our new minivan and made stickers with my business logo for packaging.
This past summer my mom, Anna Celeste and I baked consistently for 7 weeks. We had so much fun delivering the treats and seeing friends who ordered from us. We even made new friends and earned some money! When my former parent-infant advisor (who now happens to be the Deaf Education Director at my school district) found out, she shared the information with her husband who is an assistant superintendent. He was so excited, he invited me to become a vendor for my school district. My mom completed the paperwork, so I could become a vendor. They are very proud of me and have invited my mom, dad and I to several school meetings to share our story with educators, therapists and other parents.
Sometimes people see me and underestimate me. I cannot hear or speak, but it is nice when others who want to know me recognize that I am very smart and have the potential to learn and do many things. It might take a while, but with patience and understanding I can succeed. I am thankful to Anna Celeste. She is an incredible friend who is also like a big sister to me. If Hurricane Harvey wouldn’t have come into our lives, I’m not sure if I would have such a great friend.